Ex-White House Staffer Returns to Launch Venture to Promote Alaska-U.S. Understanding

Aug 19, 2016

Helping Americans and Alaskans understand each other …


Alaska Native Raina Thiele worked on the White House staff pretty much since the beginning of the Obama administration. Among other things, she helped plan the president’s historic trip to Alaska last year. Now, the 33-year-old Thiele is back and says she wants to continue her work helping Americans understand Alaska and its challenges.

“What I would like to do is ensure that folks in D.C. have a better picture, a more realistic picture of what’s happening up here in Alaska,” she said.

Thiele says that’s needed, because too many Americans, including those who work within the Beltway, don’t know much about Alaska.

Raina Thiele, a former White House associate director of Intergovernmental Affairs and Public Engagement, in Dillingham during President Obama's trip to Alaska last year.
Credit Thiele Strategies

“One thing that I did notice over the course of my time at the White House was that people don’t really get Alaska,” she said.

Thiele says likewise, she’d like to help educate Alaskans about how Washington operates.

“Unless you’ve really been inside the federal government,” she said, “it’s often hard to kind of wrap your head around how the bureaucracy functions, what the processes are for getting something done. And so having that knowledge of how to get along in that system is going to be really valuable.”

Thiele is a Dena’ina Athabascan and Yupik who was born in Soldotna 33 years ago and grew up in mainly rural areas on the Kenai Peninsula, Mat-Su and villages in southwest Alaska before heading east to get a political science degree at Yale College and a master’s in Public Policy from Harvard.

Thiele, right, speaks at the Nov. 15 White House Tribal Nations Conference in Washington, D.C., with Valerie Jarrett, senior adviser and assistant to President Obama for Intergovernmental Affairs and Public Engagement.
Credit White House

She says her other major goal is to help Alaskans know where to go and who to talk to about getting help for adapting to climate change impacts. Like coastal villages threatened by erosion caused by loss of sea ice that used to protect the coastline. And helping remote communities around the state deal with the high cost of energy.

“I’m also very interested in going in the direction of climate-change resilience, development of renewable energy up here in the state,” she said. “Things like that are also very interesting to me and something that I’d like to make a part of this new venture, as I go forward.”

The venture is Thiele Strategies, an Anchorage-based consulting firm she’s just launched.

Thiele says because the state and federal governments both are facing fiscal challenges, she’ll also promote working with both nonprofit and for-profit entities and public-private partnerships to support projects and programs to help Alaskans.