By Martyanne Donovan
What do a train conductor, an inventor, a jewelry designer, and an Eskimo whaler have in common? They are all part of 2013's new class of freshmen legislators. The group brings a diverse background, a variety of experience, and a good set of skills to their respective statehouses after spending years of service in their communities.
Representative Benjamin Nageak (D), an Inupiat (Eskimo) from Barrow, is a whaler. He and his fellow shipmates fish the mammal during the spring in a boat made from whale skins. Once caught, they skin the whale and freeze the meat until June when the Eskimo community celebrates a "Nalukataq" or feast. The entire community is invited to partake in the meal and day-long events, including "blanket tossing" using the whale skin.
Wyoming State Representative, Lee Filer (D), is a conductor for Union Pacific and a transportation technician for the 153rd Airlift Squadron.
Karin Housley (R), a newly elected Minnesota senator and her husband, Phil, a former NHL player, are part-owners of the Lumberyard Hockey & Sports Training Facility in Stillwater.
Oklahoma Representative Bobby Cleveland (R), has manufactured all kinds of things including refurbished golf balls. Cleveland is also an inventor, holding two patents and more than 10 trademarks.
Before her leadership service, Georgia's Representative, Valencia Stovall helped with the day-to-day operations for the 1996 Olympic Games, events for the Atlanta Falcons, Atlanta Hawks and the Chick-Fil-A Peach Bowl. Additionally, Stovall helped manage the U2 and Rolling Stones concerts.
Vermont Representative, Cindy Humiston Weed created pinewood toys several years before switching her career to jewelry design. Weed still uses wood products for her pieces; she was featured in 1992's edition of Fine Woodworking's Design Book #6.
Arkansas' Representative Micah Neal (R), is a restaurateur. He worked for years at his family-owned eatery, Neals Café in the famous "pink" building in Springdale. Neals Café was listed in Southern Living in 2004 as one of the best places in the country to eat fried chicken. Their fried pickles also come highly recommended.
Before joining the legislature, Washington's Representative, Gael Tarleton (D), worked for a Fortune 500 company managing two subsidiaries in Russia. She helped lead nuclear waste clean-up in the country and assisted in rebuilding Russia after the fall of communism.
If you know of a legislator with an interesting background or career, please tell us.