Everybody Really Trusts Each Other

Todd Palin: Family, work, Iron Dog shapes life in Alaska

Name: Todd Palin
Occupation: Self-employed commercial fisherman, four-time Iron dog winner and 19-year Iron Dog racer

Few need to be introduced to Todd Palin, a fisherman, Iron Dog racer, North Slope worker and husband of Sarah Palin, former governor of Alaska and vice presidential candidate in 2008. Here Todd talks candidly about life in Alaska, doing what he loves most.

How long have you lived here?

All my life. I was born in Dillingham and commercial fished all my life. I also spent time in Glennallen before moving to Wasilla in 1981, where I graduated from Wasilla High School. In 1982, I did college stuff and the Valley's been home since then.

Why do you love Alaska?

When you grow up in Alaska, it's hard to describe being able to, for example, drive your snowmachine to school every day, or jump in a boat and head upriver and shoot caribou and moose. I love the freedom to fly and explore. To me, rural Alaska is the foundation of the state and if you look at Prudhoe Bay, back in the '60s when they first started exploring up there, those guys were some real tough men. I spent my career on the North Slope, so I just have a great appreciation for those wildcat guys. They just load up and head that direction with a goal. Alaska is so huge, I like wearing my T-shirt that says: "Texas is our Little Sister State." Growing up in rural Alaska, having the freedom to do whatever we wanted to do, was great. But sports and hard work (Palin comes from a family with five generations of Alaska fishermen) played a big part of my life.

What's special about your job?

Iron Dog is a hobby; it's not a job. What's special about the Iron Dog? Just being able to be part of a group of guys riding across the state and through rural Alaska. To me, it's special to be able to go out into rural Alaska understanding their daily challenges, and I appreciate what they do every day to survive. There are good, hard, solid people out in rural Alaska, and I think if you talk to all the Iron Dog workers, they have appreciation for all rural communities that keep the Iron Dog working. Growing up in rural Alaska commercial fishing taught me hard-work ethics. You got a limited time to catch the fish and when you're taught that at such a young age, you carry that work ethic throughout your whole life. I worked on the North Slope as a facility production operator for British Petroleum (BP) for many years and am very grateful for that opportunity—great jobs on the North Slope that allow you to maintain that Alaska lifestyle.

Why do you love doing what you do?

Well, Iron Dog is one of those Alaska events that really hasn’t exploded on the national level, but for most Alaskans, it’s a big event. You can ask most racers or even people who participate in the recreational class—it just sucks you right in. It’s a great event. With fishing, I was blessed to be taught by my mom, my grandparents and other family members. I was blessed to be taught by them how to fish and then now we get to enjoy teaching our children how to fish. It’s very gratifying to be able to show the rewards of hard work. The Slope was a great job, great place to work. It’s 35-plus years of success—good companies to work for, great people to work with—and when you work in those elements, the weather, the North Slope, everybody really trusts each other. We really have to be a solid team because you’re up there and wind could be blowing 100 miles per hour and temps 50 below, but most Alaskans still have no concept of how big the operation is on the North Slope. I’m very thankful to be given the opportunity for on-the-job training along with several others. It was a great job that provided for my family for many years.

What’s your impact on Alaska?

My impact, I don’t really think of my personal impact. Sarah would have a different answer for herself. When she was governor, she accomplished a lot in a bipartisan fashion. And in an Alaskan spirit, a bipartisan Alaskan direction. About the only thing (I impacted) was kind of putting the Iron Dog in the national spotlight. Growing up as a kid, once in a while I’d have a helmet, but most times I’d ride with a beaver hat, with a set of goggles. It wasn’t until the Iron Dog that I began using a helmet full time. I promote helmet safety. You have to have a helmet. I think there are still a lot of people who live in the Lower 48 who are curious about Alaska. But also knowing there are probably tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, of families across our nation who have had an Alaska experience or a relative who has had an Alaska experience or knows somebody who has—at the end of the day you have a conversation with someone and it’s a small world.

I maintained my job when Sarah was governor, won the Iron Dog in 2007 when Sarah was governor, continued my job on the North Slope for the most part, focused on helping on vocational training. That’s kind of different than other First Spouses, but they all had a hand in doing positive things for their state.

Anything else?

I don’t know—probably a lot to add, but I was blessed to grow up in Alaska. Every state has its beauty and it’s what each individual wants to do, you know, with that beauty of Mother Nature in their states, and going out and enjoying them. We are all very blessed to live in a beautiful country.

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