Aaron Wamsley is a candidate for the Sitka Assembly. There are two open seats on the assembly, and five candidates. The municipal election is Tuesday, October 7.

Downloadable audio.

140829_AaronWamsley_waldholzMy name is Aaron Wamsley and I moved to Sitka 10 years ago. I work at Mt. Edgecumbe High School dorms and I could not have asked to have a better job. In the 10 years I have been here I have fallen in love with Sitka. But even though the community seems like it’s healthy, in reality, to me and many Sitkans that I have spoken to, Sitka is slowly hemorrhaging to death.

We have a great fishing industry here and we have had our good and bad years with that. We have our tourist industry which is struggling to stay afloat. When I first moved here our town population would almost double on some days because of the sheer amount of tourists. Now our big tourist days might reach 2,000 people and that’s few and far between. We need to fix that.

As to the internet sales, there is not much we can do about that. People will shop where they can afford to shop. Unfortunately many people can’t afford to shop here in Sitka. The expense of buying things like basic amenities and food is staggering. Not only do people shop online but they find it cheaper to go to Juneau and shop there. We need to fix this problem. How can we make it affordable for everyone to shop here? That question is going to have a long and complex answer.

The charter fishing industry is helping our economy but they are suffering as well due to the high costs just like everyone else. I think it is time to open up Sitka to the outside world more. We need to help local businesses expand so we can possibly have our products exported. Personally I would love to see businesses like Theobroma back in full swing and see businesses like the Baranof Island Brewing Company expand. Local crafted business could become another distinct part of our economy here. Can you imagine it? An economy based on fishing, tourism and local industry?

One person asked if I would want another deep water dock, another asked me to support a boat haul out dock out at the industrial plant where everything from welders and fiberglass and electrical etc. would be centrally located and available to ships in need of services and could go there instead of to other cities. A few people broached the subject of a lumber mill (not to be confused with a pulp mill). Even more people asked how we could expand UAS so that more of our community could stay here to go to school instead of having to leave to get their college education. These small ideas would take time to enact. All these ideas would give our children jobs and allow for them to stay here.

Which leads to another point: Where is the housing? Why aren’t we having more apartments built where young families who are looking to make a start in our community? In the last 10 years I have met many wonderful people that were born and raised here. I have met people that have moved here because they were in the Coast Guard or they came here on a cruise, only to have to move from Sitka because they couldn’t afford to buy a house here, afford clothes here, food here etc. We need affordable housing, housing that kids fresh out of high school can afford. We need more entertainment venues for our children and young adults to make this town alluring to them so that they want to stay here.

I don’t propose we open Sitka up and turn it into a town owned by cruise lines or big business, but owned by the people of Sitka. We need to grow and be a more rounded society for all age groups, young and old alike. Unfortunately that’s not the case. Our young people are leaving, our tourists are leaving. The only people that seems to be doing well is the upper class citizens. According to the US government my wife and I are lower middle class citizens and we have a hard time surviving here and have even thought about leaving ourselves. But like I said, I love Sitka and want to do my part to help improve this town. My wife and I want to try our hardest to make Sitka a place where we can all live. I want to see Sitka light up on the map and be a place that people don’t ever want to leave, I want Sitka to be the envy of Southeast Alaska.