William Thomas (Tom) Maher II passed away unexpectedly in his Douglas home on June 17, 2013. He was 61.
Tom was born to William Thomas Maher (Woody) and Ada Marjorie Maher on September 14, 1951 in Iowa City, Iowa. The youngest of three siblings, his family moved to Washington State in 1957. He attended Royal City High School, Western Washington University, and graduated from Central Washington University in 1974.
Tom moved to Alaska in 1976 where he began his career as an auditor with the Department of Administration. He worked for the Alaska State Legislature for more than 20 years as a senior legislative aide. During his tenure with the legislature, he worked for Representatives Eileen MacLean, Mark Hanley, and Gail Phillips and Senators Rick Halford, Gene Therriault, and Lyman Hoffman.
Tom was recognized as a natural leader on fiscal policy and political issues, with many colleagues expressing how much they benefited from Tom's knowledge. He never needed a resume and never had to apply for work. Legislators – usually those in leadership positions – always sought him out.
Tom counseled distilling everything down to one page. He argued that if you can't make a compelling case for what you need on one page, then your idea simply won't fly. This became known as "the one-page rule."
Many of Alaska's elected leaders had high respect for his insights and frank assessments on political and policy issues. He was famous for making people laugh – often at ourselves and our own foibles. His wit often cut to the heart of a matter. As a staffer, Tom joked that he only worked on two bills a year: the ones that always passed – the operating and capital budgets. Although never elected to office, Tom wrote billions of dollars in state appropriations for funding schools – particularly those in rural villages. The state approved several of Tom's proposed major financing deals for funding state deferred maintenance, harbors, and water and sewer projects.
After Tom retired, he spent several years in Ruidoso, New Mexico, before returning to Juneau.
In his younger years, Tom was an avid sailor and co-owner of a sailboat with his longtime friend, Bob Rehfeld. He was active and health conscious throughout his life, skiing and running in his earlier years and working out daily later in life. He loved hiking and made frequent trips to Sandy Beach and the Treadwill Ditch. Tom spent time each year vacationing in Arizona, New Mexico, and Washington where he pursued his love of exploring new trails. He also enjoyed gardening, grilling and tinkering with all types of electronic gadgets. He had an eye for quality jewelry and watches.
Tom was preceded in death by his parents and his beloved Airedale, Skipper, who was by his side for more than 15 years. He is survived by his sister Vicki Maher of Bellevue, Washington and his brother Mike Maher of Juneau, siblings who will miss him dearly - especially his sense of humor! Vicki holds fond memories of time spent camping in the San Juan Islands and many shopping and lunch trips around the Seattle area. Mike will remember the time they spent fishing and boating. Although in recent years he did not see her often, he had a soft spot in his heart for his niece, Jenner Maher Keith.
In accordance with Tom's wishes, there will be no formal service. In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to Starting Over Airedale Rescue (SOAR) in Howell, Michigan and Old Dog Haven in Arlington, Washington. Tom made frequent donations to these groups and held them close to his heart.
At the time of Skipper's passing, Tom published an obituary with the following excerpt from Brian Ferry's song, Slave to Love: "You're running with me, feet don't touch the ground. We're the restless hearted, not the chained and bound." His family finds comfort in knowing that Tom and Skip are together again.
Tom has a multitude of friends who love him and will miss him greatly. One of those closest to him expressed this sentiment, "We all make it to the finish line, but I wish someone had told him not to hurry."
Published in The Juneau Empire on July 2, 2013