This is the first in a series of profiles on Sitka’s candidates for municipal office.
Steven Eisenbeisz, 28, is not a lifelong Sitkan. But pretty close.
“I moved to Sitka in the summer of 1992 with my mother and brother,” he said. “I started second grade, went all the way through high school, graduated here, and shortly after that moved away for four years in order to join the Marine Corps. Since 1992, that’s been my only time out of Sitka.”
He’s thought about running for Assembly before, and he thought about it before the filing deadline for this election, too. Initially, he decided against it.
“However, when I saw there was only two candidates on the ballot with two positions open, I decided maybe this is the time,” Eisenbeisz said. “I really feel Sitka needs a choice in this election, and I’m proud to be that.”
Eisenbeisz and his wife, Ashley, own Russell’s sporting goods store on Lincoln Street. It’s a third-generation family business, on her side, and Eisenbeisz says it’s offered him a good perspective on Sitka’s economy.
“The business climate in town is interesting,” he said. “There’s definitely room for people who want to try hard and succeed here.”
As an example, he cites the Homeport Eatery, a new food court open across the street from Russell’s.
“One person had an idea in their head and with a lot of drive and ambition and, I’m sure, very hard work, they were able to open up and have quite a nice place for Sitka,” Eisenbeisz said. “If you try hard enough in this town you can succeed. It’s all about finding what the people need here.”
The last several Assemblies have each, at times, heard citizens testify that the city isn’t business friendly. And each Assembly has had members who argue the opposite.
“They could both be very much right,” he said. It’s all in how you define “business friendly.”
“The city needs money to operate,” Eisenbeisz said. “Sales tax is one of the ways they get that money. If becoming business friendly is eliminating the sales tax or giving money to these businesses, I don’t know that that’s necessarily the right way to go.”
Eisenbeisz says there are more discussions that need to happen before he has a strong opinion on whether the city is business friendly.
On education funding, Eisenbeisz says the city should give as much money as it can afford to give to the school system. But “afford” is the key word there, he says. And with costs seeming to rise faster than revenue, Eisenbeisz says it’s important that the city be able to live within its means.
“We are going to have to do something. I know, as myself, if I have $6,000 in the bank, I can’t go and spend $10,000. It just doesn’t work,” he said. “The city needs to be run the same way. We can’t dig ourselves into a deficit and simply say ‘oh, it’ll fix itself later.’ No, it won’t. We cannot spend more money than is coming in.”
Deciding how to ensure long-term fiscal strength for Sitka will be up to the people, he says. And as an Assembly member, he says he wants to spend a lot of time listening to his constituents.
“This is not an elected official’s town. This is not the city’s town. It’s our town,” Eisenbeisz said. “And I really want people to become more proactive in the solutions to the problems that we are facing now.”
Voters who want to pick Eisenbeisz will have to fill in the oval next to the write-in blank, and then write his name on the line. Does it have to be spelled correctly?
“With a name like Eisenbeisz that could be difficult,” he said. “But fortunately, no.”
The Municipal Clerk’s office confirms that. As long as the bubble is filled in, and the voter’s intent is clear, the vote will be counted.
Tuesday, we’ll introduce you to Assembly candidate Ben Miyasato. On Wednesday, we’ll profile Assembly candidate Aaron Swanson. School board candidates will be profiled Thursday and Friday.