Chester Carson ’04 Networking Toward a Dream

What does Alaska have in common with Hawai’i?

For most of us, not a whole lot. For Chester Carson ’04, they both feel like home.

Juneau, Alaska is Carson’s hometown but he always knew he was going to end up in Hawai’i. “Getting to know some of my fellow Boxers from Hawai’i sort of cemented Hawai’i's spot on my soul as a place I knew I hoped to wind up some day,” he said.

“Alaska and Hawai’i have quite a bit in common – sense of place, warmth of the people, diverse cultures, even the cost of living.”

However, Carson set his sights on a life on the islands long before he had a way to work there and that piece of the plan proved to be a challenge.  “It was a couple of years of being borderline shameless with going through my existing relationships … to find ways to get actual human beings on the phone in Hawai’i.”

Carson’s career path was influenced by far more than a love of the tropics. He majored in Media Arts and felt a fair amount of pressure to pursue work that clearly applied to his major. “It took me a while to allow myself to be comfortable with the idea of pursuing jobs, even if they sounded cool, that weren't at least tangentially relevant to my degree.”

“I was always secretly jealous of my friends that had their path so clearly figured out, like the future lawyers and scientists, for example. While they were at graduate school, I was starting a part-time broadcast radio job back home in Juneau, Alaska, and very much filled with self-doubt.”

After his stint in radio, Carson began working for Alaska State Senator Dennis Egan and, at the same time, he began crossing paths with staffers for U.S. Senate candidate Lisa Murkowski. He stayed in touch with his contacts in Murkowski’s office, as she became the first senator since 1954 to win a write-in campaign and headed to Washington D.C.

In 2011, Carson moved to Washington D.C. to work for Alaska Senator Murkowski on the staff of the U.S. Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources. He began as a staff assistant, and finished as a senior policy staffer.

After living in Washington D.C. for eight years, he was offered a job in Hawai’i, where he gets to see the sun set over the Pacific every day. The job was on Maui, not Oahu, where he had been aiming to land. Carson took the position anyway and began his time on the islands as a legislative analyst for Maui County. 

Carson continues to prove that taking the leap makes a difference. He has recently accepted a new job and will move to Oahu later this summer to work for Hawai’i Energy.

His new coworkers? People who were “some of the very first outreach conversations I had more than a year ago from D.C.”

It was ultimately his “borderline shameless” networking him that got him to his goal.

There are many Pacific alumni among those Carson extends his gratitude. “The Boxer outreach for this chapter in my life was extensive. And it's ongoing. I only hope I'll be able to reciprocate the love at some point to everyone who has helped me find my way here.”

Friday, May 22, 2020