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Former Webster resident Bob Poe wants to be the next governor of Alaska

Webster Groves native Bob Poe, candidate for governor of Alaska (click for larger version)
July 17, 2009
Bob Poe is a long way from his roots in the Sherwood Forest neighborhood of Webster Groves. He lives with his wife, Terzah, and the couple's two Siberian Huskies, Ben and Jerry, in downtown Anchorage, Alaska.

The Webster Groves native in January announced his candidacy for the Democratic nomination for governor of Alaska, a seat that has drawn world-wide media attention with the recent announcement by Gov. Sarah Palin that she would resign at the end of this month.

Poe moved to Juneau in 1981 to work as a mountain guide and business consultant. His intention was to stay a couple of years, but his professional successes, coupled with his passion for the outdoors, resulted in Alaska becoming his permanent home.

"It was actually a mountaineering store in downtown Webster that led to my moving to Alaska, Moore's Alpine Shop. Bob Moore, who owned the store, moved to Bellingham, Wash., and opened a mountaineering store there," Poe said.

Poe traveled with a group of people, employees at Moore's Alpine and friends of Moore, to Seattle one summer to try to climb Mount Rainier.

"After three tries we never made it to the top, but I fell in love with the Pacific Northwest. I remember sitting on Alaska Way in Seattle watching the Alaska ferry leave for Juneau -- it just seemed like such a great adventure," Poe recalled.

A young Poe went on to complete his bachelor's degree in business finance from the University of Missouri-St. Louis in 1977, and his master's in business administration from UMSL in 1979.

Poe landed a consulting job with Price Waterhouse. While working on a project in Springfield, Ill, a managing partner told of a project in Juneau, Alaska.

"All the other consultants from Chicago dove under their desks fearing the Alaska cold, but I thought 'they have mountains in Alaska!' I raised my hand and like a grade school kid said 'ooh ooh pick me,'" Poe said.

It was his love of the outdoors that first sent Bob Poe to Alaska in 1981. Poe was one of two initial designers of the accounting system for the State of Alaska. photo courtesy of Bob Poe (click for larger version)
Poe got the call and in 1981 he wound up being one of the two initial designers of the accounting system for the State of Alaska. Poe said it's still the system the state uses today.

He also had a brief stint working as a mountain guide.

"I tried mountain guiding very briefly and learned two important lessons from it. First, I learned there is a whiner in every group and I didn't enjoy that part. Second, it turned something I loved to do into work. The best way to enjoy Alaska's mountains was to do it on my own terms with people I liked being with and was willing to put my fate in their hands," Poe said.

Before his move, Poe was a third generation Websterite. He said his grandmother lived in Webster when the city still had wooden sidewalks.

He grew up on Somerset Avenue off of Rock Hill Road. His father, two brothers and one sister all attended Webster Groves High School. Poe attended Mary Queen of Peace, and graduated from DeSmet High School in 1972.

"I have lots of great memories from growing up there and still think it is a marvelously special place," Poe said. "I was a teenager when CBS did '16 In Webster Groves' and remember sitting with my family wondering why the news people didn't understand what a great place Webster was.

"I loved the trains, the Christmas tree lots in Old Orchard and Little Webster, and going to Velvet Freeze and Smith Sporting Goods."

Successes In Alaska

Among his many professional successes, Poe went on to become an Alaska state commissioner and president of the Anchorage Economic Development Corp. He has worked financial jobs in both the public and private sector since arriving in Alaska 28 years ago.

Poe is considered a serious candidate for governor by the state's top Democrats, having worked under four governors. His many political and business ties, along with his reputation as a centrist candidate, work to his advantage. His odds of occupying the governor's mansion increased when Palin, still popular among voters in the state, announced her resignation.

Name recognition, however, may be a problem for Poe, which is why he's off to a very early start in campaigning toward the fall 2010 primary election. He was the first and, thus far, only candidate in either party to announce his intentions to become governor. His campaign slogan is "I know Bob Poe."

"I'm running for governor because Alaska needs a governor who is focused on Alaska, not on their own national political career," Poe said. "When Sarah Palin returned to Alaska after her great adventure with John McCain, she was no longer interested in governing here."

This is Poe's first time running for elected office.

"I have never been a professional politician, but over my 28-year career, I've managed to get a lot done within a political environment by combining my business and government experiences," he said. "I want to put that experience, drive and know-how to work for Alaska, my home for almost 30 years."

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