Separated by thousands of miles, Washington, D.C. can feel like a world away from rural Alaska especially when it comes to policymaking but one Calista Shareholder is making it her mission to bridge the divide. Deborah Vo was appointed to serve as the rural outreach coordinator for U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski in March 2014. In her new position Deborah is the “eyes and ears” for the Senator when it comes to rural issues.
“If there is a question of a federal matter, hopefully I am a face that is recognized as someone that not only listens with her head but also her heart,” said Deborah. “I want folks to know [Senator Murkowski] does have a presence among Alaska Native populations.”
Deborah grew up in Saint Mary’s and is the youngest of 10 children. She credits her grandparents, siblings and parents, Fred and Domitilla Alstrom, for her drive and career success. Growing up around a loving family and in a caring community helped nurture her passion for public service. She said education was always important to her.
“It’s a journey; there’s so much to learn and so much to give back; there should be no excuse not to,” said Deborah. “We are all born equally with this gift; use it.”
She earned her Bachelor of Arts degree in Business at Elms College in Chicopee, Massachusetts, with the help of a Calista Education and Culture, Inc. scholarship. Upon graduation she moved back to Saint Mary’s to begin working for the city.
“The idea of public service and giving back was very important to me,” said Deborah. “For a place that gave me so much in terms of what it was to be.”
Deborah worked for the city and tribe before moving to Anchorage to pursue her Master of Business Administration degree at Alaska Pacific University. During her graduate studies, she worked with the Alaska Native Health Board. It was during that time discussions were being held regarding tribal management at the new Native hospital, the Alaska Native Medical Center. Deborah worked with a team to help shape the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium (ANTHC).
“Today, 18 years later, ANTHC is a tribal self-determination model for the rest of Indian country,” said Deborah.
Deborah’s passion for helping rural communities led her to become an expert in the areas of Alaska Native health care, rural energy issues and subsistence rights. She spent time managing rural projects for the Alaska Energy Authority and working with Community Development Quota (CDQ) program groups in the
Lower Yukon and Kuskokwim, as well as with a statewide tribal organization for four years.
With her expertise in these important rural issues, Deborah will work with rural Alaskans and use her knowledge to advise Senator Murkowski’s policy team about how to best help rural Alaskans.