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He says he’d like to do more work on the climate action, affordable housing and the city-owned Benchlands.
Jack Ozment and his wife Judith came to Sitka in 1991 as part of the Volunteers in Mission program at Sheldon Jackson College. After a few years of working with that program, they decided to become full-time residents of Sitka.
After Assembly member Al Duncan resigned in 2006, Ozment was appointed to fill the remainder of his term. He was elected to a full term the following year.
“What do I like about it? Primarily, being on the inside, I guess, is interesting for me,” Ozment said. “There are some things that you can’t talk about. We have personnel relations and such things that we can’t talk about, but generally it gives a person on the assembly the opportunity to really see what is required. And sometimes it really amazes me what it really does take to run a little town like this and make it operate.”
Ozment retired from IBM, where he worked as a project engineer. He says his career gave him experiences similar to the duties of an Assembly member, including handling large budgets.
“And I was in charge of several departments of engineers, developing plans for construction and renovation of buildings,” he said. “We developed budgets, developed plans. I had control of budgets in the range of $16 million for my operation at that point. So I feel I have that pretty good aspect in my background.”
During his first term, Ozment has served as an Assembly liason to various groups, including Sitka’s Climate Action Task Force. That task force developed a plan that calls for Sitka to reduce its carbon emissions by 25 percent before the year 2020. Ozment says he’d like to stay on the Assembly to help see the plan put to work. And he says, there are other loose ends he’d like to help tie up:
“The Assembly had passed and started a project for affordable housing. When we had picked a contractor, done what we thought we could do to establish a contract, and the contractor has not been able to follow through because of limitations on getting tax credits. So that’s on hold, but I hope we can get it back on line again,” he said. “I would hope to be able to do something to help process the Benchlands that we purchased a couple years ago. We need to be able to get that saleable, so we can get some of our money back on that program.”
The Benchlands is an area set back from Halibut Point Road just north of Cascade Creek. The city bought the land in 2008 for $2 million with the hope of developing it for sale.
Any progress on those unfinished projects could come during a difficult year for the Assembly, which passed a smaller budget for 2011 than the year before – a reflection of declining sales tax revenue and rising costs. Asked what Assembly members should do about those problems moving forward, Ozment says the best strategy is to hold on to the rudder and weather the storm, rather than trying to make up the difference through other means.
“And we have been told pretty clearly by the citizens in the past three years or so that they are not the least bit interested in any kind of a tax increase to finance any sort of what we might call an improvement in service,” Ozment said. “So if we can maintain our present services, keep the people reasonably happy with their quality of life, I think that’s one of the main things that we have to do.”
Ozment says city government is structured pretty well, and that he stands behind recent efforts by city administrator Jim Dinley to combine the planning and building departments.
“I’m a little concerned with the unionization of our police and fire departments,” he said. “I hope this doesn’t lead to any problems in the future. It’s going to be a concern this year, trying to make ends meet with the budget and still try to make their contract requirements fit with us. So to make changes in government? Oh, my, that’s really a difficult thing. I wouldn’t want to change any particular people at this point. Right now we have an assembly that works well together and I would hope which new people are elected would be able to fit into that seamlessly.”
Ozmet says he was drawn into public service because he believes “every person really owes your community some time to help the community prosper.”
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