Early life and education
Sveinsson was born in Anchorage, Alaska on August 1st, 1942. He was the son of Icelandic immigrants who had moved to the United States in the 1920s from the city of Reykjavik. They ultimately settled in Alaska by 1926. His father worked as a fisherman and his mother worked at the nearby bakery. Both were advocates for Alaskan statehood.
Sveinsson was raised in Anchorage, Alaska where he recalled fond memories of his childhood playing in snow, going on hikes with his father, and fishing in the Pacific Ocean. Sveinson was an only child and therefore spent more time with his father than most children in the area. He graduated from Chugiak High school in 1960 and then pursued a higher education at Alaska Pacific University.
It was at Alaska Pacific University where Sveinsson would pursue an interest in politics, he would work for State Representative Mike Gravel as an intern during his junior year of College. Sveinsson would graduate from Alaska Pacific University in 1964 with a bachelor's degree in political science.
Campaign for Mayor of Anchorage, Alaska
In 1990, Sveinsson ran for Mayor of Anchorage, Alaska. He campaigned on education reform for the Anchorage Public School system and rebuilding many of the roads. He ran as a Democrat against incumbent Republican Jennifer Whitman.
Whitman would defeat Sveinsson with 58% of the vote.
Alaska House of Representatives
Sveinsson ran for the State Legislature in 1988. He would win against incumbent Michael Cebulski and would be sworn into the legislature on January 7th, 1989. He would serve in the legislature for 16 years from 1989 to 2005.
As as state legislature, Sveinsson attempted to get his progressive legislation through the Republican controlled state legislature. He was able to get through infrastructure reform in 1995 with the bill being signed into law by Governor Loren Leman on June 5th, 1995.
In his later years in the State Legislature, Sveinsson would work more with Republicans on bipartisan legislation such as tax cuts and education reform in the State of Alaska.
Governor of Alaska
"We're gonna make real progress for Alaskans! Not the vague, empty platitudes given to us by Parnell and his out-of-touch administration!" - Ólafur Sveinsson at a campaign rally (July 7th, 2010)Sveinsson would announce his candidacy for Governor of Alaska on January 20th, 2010. While trailing behind in the primaries, he would defeat Craig Campbell and become the Democratic nominee for Governor. He would defeat incumbent Governor Sean Parnell after he implemented unpopular carbon taxes in compliance with the Gravel administration. Sveinsson portrayed himself as a more moderate Democrat who would cut taxes and slash the bureaucracy that Parnell had created. He was the first Democratic Governor of Alaska in 40 years and was even congratulated by Republican President Alan Keyes on his victory.
While campaigning as a moderate, he would actually be more progressive on issues such as the Carbon tax than Parnell was. He worked with the Reich administration's EPA in the expansion of National Parks in Alaska and shifting towards renewable energy while protecting the jobs of Alaskan oil workers.
In 2014, Sveinsson would go up for re-election and would face off against Republican Bill Walker. He would narrowly defeat Walker with 52% of the vote. In his second term, Sveinsson would continue to push through the policies he had previously done, but would be forced to alter several policies due to the Republican majorities in the state legislature. He would leave office in 2018 and was succeeded by Craig Cambell.
Sveinsson is married to Ingibjorg Jonsdottir on November 14th, 1964. They have lived in Juneau, Alaska and the couple have lived there since 1972. They have 7 children.