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Retired Air Force pilot running for District 8

The Alaska State House in April, 2023.
Riley Board
The Alaska State House in April, 2023.

A retired Air Force general and fighter pilot is running for District 8, the Alaska State House seat that covers Nikiski, Sterling, Cooper Landing and parts of Ridgeway.

John Hillyer of Ridgeway said prevailing social and economic conditions in the country, and his leadership experience in the military, led him to run for office.

“With the state of the nation, I couldn’t just sit idly by, go into my quote-unquote “retirement” and teach my kids how to fly. It was just too unnerving,” he said. “I’m deeply troubled by the course our nation is going down, so I couldn’t sit idly by.”

He cited inflation, First and Second Amendment rights, the national COVID-19 response and other social issues as motivating factors.

Hillyer said his high-ranking Air Force positions came with responsibilities that prepared him for state office.

“Those jobs involve billions of dollars of budgets and operating capital, operations money, and I was entrusted with the highest levels of security clearances for that,” he said. “So with that background, I felt I could provide some leadership in the local area.”

Hillyer first came to Alaska to work on building an F-22 fighter jet unit at Elmendorf Air Force Base in Anchorage, and moved down to the Peninsula in 2014. His twin sons attend Soldotna High School, and he continues to work as a commercial pilot out of Anchorage.

Hillyer said his priorities in the legislature would be bolstering constitutional rights and revitalizing Alaska’s natural resources, which he said is the solution to the state’s budget issues.

“So we’re talking about reinvigorating oil, gas and other resource production, then producing fuel, natural gas and even value-added products. First for ourselves, is how I’d like to see it, for our own local use, to remedy some of these issues that we have right now,” Hillyer said. “And then for export, of course. And there’s more than enough resources to support that.”

He said in the legislature, he would focus on representing District 8 residents above all else, and said his integrity is a key part of his candidacy.

Hillyer filed to run in November, around the same time sitting Representative Ben Carpenter announced his plans to run for the State Senate. Bill Elam, who represents Sterling on the Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly, joined the race in January. The primary for the 2024 state house race is on August 20.

Riley Board is a Report For America participant and senior reporter at KDLL covering rural communities on the central Kenai Peninsula.