AK DOC Today

News, Events, and Activities in the Alaska Department of Corrections

Meet COIV Gail Smithhiser: How the DOC crew got their start in public service

This is Gail Smithhiser, a COIV at Anvil Mountain Correctional Center in Nome. She’s been with the Department of Corrections since 2006, when she started as a CO I. But before that she was crowned Miss Arctic Native Brotherhood 2001. The same year, she was sent to participate in the Miss World Eskimo Indian Olympics in Fairbanks.

“Although I did not place, it was an amazing opportunity to show my public speaking and leadership abilities,” Smithhisler said.

Turns out, it runs in the family. He mother was crowned Miss Arctic Native Brotherhood in 1973 and her aunt was also crowned in 1975. (How cool is that?!)

When she began her career with us, she liked the idea of a week on, week off schedule. But after more than a decade, she says her appreciation for the job is much deeper than that.

“Once employed, I found that I enjoyed working with people and making sure that, at the end of the day, everyone was safe prior to being able to go home. What appealed to me about my current position was the challenge of working on difficult time accounting records and maintaining the Records department to ensure we were in compliance with Policy & Procedure and statute. I enjoy what I do and love the feeling of successfully overcoming difficult challenges with my position.”

So what has been her greatest lesson about public service?

“From my time working on shift, I was able to interact with many different people among our facility’s population. From that, I learned the importance of treating people with humanity. That didn’t mean being a sympathizer or giving people pity; it meant treating everyone with humaneness and using empathy to create a safer environment and atmosphere. Those of us in DOC are constantly observed by our populations and therefore, we have the greatest opportunity to demonstrate appropriate behavior in all types of situations. I learned that that meant talking with people, discussing making healthier and better life choices, acknowledging that the change they want to make is difficult but attainable, and making sure they knew how to be held accountable for their actions, just as I’m held accountable for mine. This type of public service is not for everyone, but you have a great opportunity to make a difference with very few chances of receiving acknowledgment or kudos.”

Thank you for your service Officer Smithhiser. Your service to Alaskans is invaluable, and we’re proud to call you one of ours!

Are you a DOC employee interested in sharing your public service story? If so, email public information officer Megan Edge at megan.edge@alaska.gov.