TRIBUTE TO NATHAN BERGERBEST; Congressional Record Vol. 165, No. 206
(Senate - December 19, 2019)

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[Pages S7202-S7203]
From the Congressional Record Online through the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]


                      TRIBUTE TO NATHAN BERGERBEST

  Ms. MURKOWSKI. Mr. President, I rise today to honor a long-time 
Senate staffer who recently retired, Nathan Bergerbest.
  Many Members and staff who have worked on judiciary, military and 
veterans, homeland security, public safety, foreign relations, 
intelligence, or Native American issues and national and international 
disasters likely had the opportunity to work with Nathan during the 16 
years he served the people of Alaska and the Nation. I am sure that 
many can share stories of the help Nathan offered, ideas he pushed to 
fruition, and wise counsel he provided. My statement today will offer 
just a slice of the many contributions this accomplished man has made 
in the lives of so many.
  Nathan began his interest in good public policy and politics at a 
young age growing up in New York City. I believe he once said that he 
got involved in his first political campaign in elementary school 
because he was searching for the candidate who could improve his 
neighborhood. His quest for what was right, what was fair, and what was 
useful public policy has never subsided.
  An attorney, Nathan has been a litigator, represented an Alaska 
Native regional corporation, and worked at FEMA. He started in my 
office in 2003 as legislative assistant and retired as senior counsel 
and deputy chief of staff. Throughout his service here in the Senate, 
Nathan was the quintessential Senate staffer--working late, knowing his 
subject cold, understanding the ways of the Senate and navigating them 
brilliantly.
  His portfolio was huge, complex, and important. Yet he never shirked 
from pitching in where he could be useful. Nathan served not only as a 
mentor to young staffers in my office but as the conscience of Federal 
agency employees, military personnel, and elected leaders--constantly 
challenging us to do better, to be better versions of ourselves.
  While a tribute from a former employer is always gratifying, Nathan 
made a lasting impression on so many who have worked here in the Senate 
over the years. I would like to share some of their stories. Several of 
the military fellows who have served in my office and worked closely 
with Nathan shared these words:

       Nathan was part of the original group that came to be known 
     as the Fairbanks Tiger Team, leading the red-shirted charge 
     with the Fairbanks community against the Air Force's proposed 
     plan to remove the F-16 Aggressor Squadron from Eielson Air 
     Force Base. He rallied community leaders, helped leverage the 
     effort on the Defense Appropriations Committee, and 
     ultimately helped the Alaska delegation save Eielson. Then, 
     only a year later, he worked to support the Alaska 
     delegation's strong push to bring the F-35 to Eielson. In 
     just over a year, the delegation was able to take Eielson 
     from a near-shuttered installation, to one that will soon 
     have the most capable fighter aircraft in the world, with 
     significant infrastructure investment to support it.
       The Tiger Team still meets over telephone or in person 
     every other Friday to discuss housing and other local 
     community issues related to the military. The team has 
     evolved over the years with new members joining and old 
     members retiring or moving to different lines of work. Nathan 
     will be missed on these calls but his legacy will be forever 
     forged in the Fairbanks community and the national defense of 
     our country.

  New commanders coming to Washington, DC, for their Hill visits would 
often ask my military and veterans affairs liaison in Anchorage for 
advice about how to prepare. The advice they received was ``Don't try 
to BS Nathan, because he'll be able to sniff it out.'' Several of these 
commanders were relieved when the meeting with Nathan was over.
  But Nathan would bend over backwards to help the military or a 
servicemember. ``A Colonel who served in Alaska attributed Nathan for 
saving his career. He didn't give any details. Only that he owed him 
everything.'' That is just like Nathan--to do good for an American and 
move on to the next task.

       Nathan was a true friend to the Alaska National Guard as 
     well, very close to the Adjutant Generals, and always quick 
     to help support their needs or tout their accomplishments.
       Nathan was extremely proud that Alaska boasts the highest 
     rate of veterans per capita and worked to ensure strong 
     representation of the Total Force military and veteran 
     communities, always working to advance veterans' rights and 
     benefits. His efforts helped lead to improvements in VA 
     hospitals in Alaska as well as advances in telemedicine and 
     other support to veterans in remote Alaskan communities.

  Public safety and support for law enforcement were always priorities 
for Nathan. He helped to lead collaborative efforts among the Federal 
agencies and State and local law enforcement to keep drugs out of 
Alaskan communities, and he never missed honoring the fallen at the 
National Fallen Officers Memorial ceremonies. He cared deeply for all 
those who put themselves in harm's way.
  While he was a policy expert in so many areas, Nathan was never one 
to ignore a plea for help from an individual Alaskan. There are 
countless examples of ``casework'' that he took on in addition to his 
legislative duties. From arranging military honors for veterans' 
funerals, persuading the Canadian Border Security Agency to reinstate 
24-hour border crossings between Hyder, AK, and British Columbia, 
ensuring Alaskans' concerns were heard by the Navy prior to Northern 
Edge exercises, protecting National Guard members from retaliation 
during an investigation of sexual misconduct complaints, improving the 
standard of care at VA medical facilities, or any number of efforts, 
Nathan started with the question ``What does the individual need?'' and 
went about getting it done. In many instances, Nathan would help my 
staff in Alaska navigate the bureaucracy to help solve an Alaskan's 
problem.
  A former attorney for FEMA, Nathan was also the Alaska delegation's 
go-to staffer whenever disaster struck. After the November 2018 
earthquake struck Anchorage, Mat-Su, and the Kenai Peninsula, Nathan 
helped disentangle municipalities, school districts, business owners, 
and individuals from the byzantine red tape that often characterizes 
FEMA. In call after call, Nathan translated FEMA's language and 
policies for Alaskans and worked with FEMA officials to do a better job 
assessing and responding to the damage. When FEMA sought to respond to 
a flood in Galena but lacked a sense of the challenges of rural Alaska, 
Nathan helped prod and guide the agency in improving the response.
  Nathan took the same sense of dedication to his work on Indian, 
Alaska Native, and Native Hawaiian issues. Leading Alaska tribal rights 
attorney Lloyd Miller called Nathan ``one of the most knowledgeable and 
talented lawyers to ever work on the Hill. He combined an unmatched 
mastery of Alaska Native legal history with a deep sensitivity to 
Alaska Native issues gained from working inside one of the major Alaska 
Native regional corporations. And while his background before coming to 
the Hill was predominantly with Alaska Native corporations, he was 
equally knowledgeable about the unique challenges confronting Alaska 
Native Tribes, and the importance of supporting the critical role that 
Alaska Tribes play alongside their corporations. Nathan's remarkable 
intellect and sage advice will be deeply missed.''
  Over the years, as protestors filled the halls of Capitol Hill and 
individual offices, Nathan would stay late to talk with those who 
visited my office. He would sit with them for long periods and talk 
about how they can best navigate the issues, and how they, as 
advocates, could best approach offices for meetings and how they can 
present their issues in such a way that they were truly being heard on 
both sides of the aisle. On at least one or two occasions, I have seen 
him go and literally sit on the floor with protestors outside of my 
office for an hour or two--just listening to what they had to say so 
that he could ensure I understood the concerns of Americans who are so 
passionate about the important issues of the day.
  No matter what the time of day or day of the week, Nathan made 
himself available to me, to other members of my staff, and to Alaskans. 
As my constituent services director in Anchorage put it, ``I remember 
one time in particular in 2011 where he and I each took 12-hour shifts 
around the clock so we could help Alaskan constituents after the 9.0 
magnitude earthquake struck in the Pacific Ocean off the northeast 
coast of Japan. A massive tsunami was triggered that flooded Japan's 
coastal

[[Page S7203]]

communities and damaged infrastructure. We spent several days in 
communication with constituents stranded in Japan that were trying to 
navigate the treacherous environment, communicate with the State 
Department, and ultimately obtain transportation home. He was also 
helpful in working with stranded Alaskan constituents after the 2015 
severe earthquake in Nepal. He reached out to the lobbyist for Orbitz, 
since many of the foreign air carriers on their website raised prices 
drastically when trying to book flights out of Nepal after the 
earthquake.''
  There are so many stories illustrative of Nathan's positive influence 
here in the U.S. Senate and in Alaska.
  I thank Nathan Bergerbest for his service to Alaska and the Nation 
and wish him well.

                          ____________________