Maggie Wall. Courtesy of Maggie Wall
The legislative session started last week and will continue for 90 days – optimistically. The process can be a long, confusing one, but it’s never dull according to one professional leghead, Maggie Wall.
She’s the creator and executive producer of the LegHead Report, an independent show that airs daily on KMXT and covers the legislative session and its issues. The LegHead Report recently entered its tenth season and, in observance of the event, KMXT invited Wall to talk about her show and this year’s legislative session.
Wall might be a professional at covering the legislature now, but she began in Alaska as a member of the Coast Guard. She says she grew up in Indiana and that, as a kid, she longed to be in the Coast Guard. But during the majority of her childhood in the 60s and early 70s, Wall says they still hadn’t opened their doors to women in the same way they had to men.
“And I remember a very shy, quiet person that I was, I said well I’m gonna make them let me in. I’m just gonna make it happen. And I don’t know where that came from, but it did, and so when I got to be 18, they were allowing women in the Coast Guard, and so I joined the Coast Guard. My mother cried and cried, and they would not take me to the airport. And I think looking back it was because my brother was in Vietnam, my other brother got drafted, and she always felt only one in the family was enough in the military.”
Wall became a radio officer, who responds to emergency calls from vessels, and ended up as one of the few women working in the Coast Guard. Between her time with the Coast Guard and now, she’s pursued several degrees, became a freelance writer, started her own fisheries newspaper, and worked as a press secretary for the senate majority.
The LegHead Report isn’t her job. It’s a passion project. And one of the first steps in forming that project was naming it, and she says she struggled to choose the right name.
“Something that people could relate to as a fun sort of a thing, because I think – truly believe – that if people can get into it in an easy way, they’ll better understand it and can be more involved in the process, or at least be more aware of how things work and how it relates to them.”
Wall says she strives to help people learn without them realizing they’re learning, and she applies that to everything from concepts to terminology. For instance, she likes to focus on what she calls “legwords,” and what they mean.
“And this is why it means that, or here’s how they might use it, here’s how you might see it used. And those are the kinds of things that I totally love and those are the kinds of things people love as well. There’s just so much out there, I kind of pick and choose, and if I have to choose, I will choose not news, not statistics, not numbers, but how can I help somebody understand something?”
She’s not only enthusiastic about the show, but about the small world of politics in Alaska.
“This is my home and I’m able to make a change. I’m able to be a part of that. And that’s exciting as an Alaskan to think that any of us, all of us, can have an active part in making changes. And having worked for the legislature, I have literally seen it, time and time again, and covering it time and time again, where somebody will go to a meeting and say ‘I don’t like the words, because I have more background on this, because legislators can’t know everything.’”
And they make a recommendation based on what they know and see their mark enter the process. It’s a unique intimacy, and it’s a luxury that influences local government as well as the legislature.
As for this year’s legislative session, Wall says it’s hard to predict how it will go, and adds that many legislators are hesitant to make decisions because it’s an election year.
She says if the legislature had made a sustainable fiscal plan ten years ago, Alaska wouldn’t be in the position it is now.
“Think of your home budget, you know. You know you’ve got, say, a temporary job, well you don’t live high on the hog based on your temporary income ‘cause you know that’s gonna come to an end. Maybe you squirrel some away, you make decisions knowing that income is gonna go down, and while they have done that to some extent, it just hasn’t been done, and so we’re being hit with it.”
While the legislative session is slated to continue for 90 days, it is subject to extensions. This may just be one of those longer sessions. So, if you need your daily dose of the LegHead Report, you can tune into KMXT after the midday report, or visit Leg Head.com for current and past episodes.