Commentary

Christianson: Mayor needs to be ‘energetic cheerleader’ for Sitka

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Thor Christianson (Photo: City of Sitka)

My name is Thor Christianson, and I want to be your mayor. Most of you know me already, but for those of you who do not, I am a lifelong Sitkan, and my family has lived in Sitka since the early 1950s. I have served on the Assembly for a total of eight years. I have been a volunteer with the fire department as an EMT/firefighter for the last 15 years. I work at Southeast Region EMS. I live on an island in Jamestown Bay with my wife Jessica and two children.

Sitka is in the middle of one of the most challenging times in our recent history. The general economic downturn has not passed Sitka by, and it has been magnified by a shift in cruise ship traffic. We are not seeing as many ships as we used to, and the resulting loss in business for Sitka is felt all across our economy. A number of local businesses have either gone out of business or moved, and many of the remaining ones are struggling.

We have to deal with a city infrastructure that is aging, with many of its components at or near the end of their useful lifespan. Many of the roads need work, as does much of the water and sewer system. The harbor system is going to need a lot of work over the next few years, and cannot be ignored, since it is an integral part of the fishing community, which of course is a mainstay of both our economy and our way of life. We are bumping up against the limits of our power generation capacity, which could cause our costs for energy to skyrocket. We have to figure out how to increase capacity without raising rates too much, or it will limit the growth of our economy.

You may ask why, with all this going on, do I want to be mayor? Well, I am the type of person that when I see a problem, I just have to try and fix it. In fact, I get excited by the challenge. I am happiest when I have a problem that I am working toward making go away. If it is a number of problems, that’s OK, it just makes me want to work harder. The idea of working with the people of Sitka to make our town stronger gets me charged up and excited.

I feel that the best way to deal with these problems is to approach them holistically. By that, I mean that we have to look at the whole of the city, not any one sector. We need to make sure while we work to improve our visitor industry we also make sure that our schools, roads, power needs, recreational needs and other infrastructure demands are met. The economic health of our city is directly tied to the overall health of our city.

So how are we going to deal with our challenges? I have a number of ideas on how we can at least ameliorate some of the problems, but it boils down to we will have to work together. We have a smart, imaginative and industrious population, and we are going to have to tap those skills if we are going to survive. I know that I do not have all the answers, but I do know that we do have the answers in our community.

The mayor of Sitka will need to be an energetic cheerleader for Sitka. As mayor, I would work with the people of Sitka to explore every idea for making Sitka a better place to live in all aspects. I would work hard to make Sitka’s government an open and respectful entity. I would also work with the state, the legislature, the U.S. Congress and industry groups to improve Sitka’s economy. I look forward to listening to Sitkans’ ideas and concerns over the next two years.

Let’s have some fun making Sitka stronger together!

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