Although it’s not a major changing of the guard, the Sitka Tribal Council will see some turnover if the unofficial results of Tuesday’s (11-11-14) election hold up.
With a voter turnout of 174, fewer Tribal Citizens than usual turned out to decide who will control Sitka’s federally-recognized tribal government.
Mike Baines will return as chairman for another two year term. He earned 104 votes to challenger Cliff Edenshaw’s 61 votes. In the past decade, Baines has seen some promising changes.
“It almost seemed like the tribe was getting kind of stagnant. Just not setting high goals for increasing income and expanding services. And that’s what I hope to do in the next couple of years.
Tribal citizens also returned Michael Miller and Rachel Moreno to their seats on the council with 125 votes each. Wilbur Brown earned 110 votes.
Moreno also was the top vote-winner two years ago. She said, “It’s just really an honor to be able to serve our people and to be appreciated for it is just such a bonus.”
But not all incumbents fared as well. Council member Lillian Feldpausch lost her seat to Bob Sam by a tiny margin, 106 votes to 109.
“Wow, that’s really close,” said Sam upon learning that he won by three votes.
Sam put his name forward at the last minute to introduce some competition to an otherwise predictable election.
“Four seats come up and only four people run wasn’t a good thing,” said Sam. “So I’m glad I ran.”
Of the 1900 tribal citizens eligible to vote, 1800 of which live in Sitka, only 174 voted. That includes absentee ballots available two weeks before. The last time Wilbur Brown was elected, voter turnout was over 300.
“It could be taken two ways,” said Brown. “It could be feeling like the Tribal Citizens don’t feel like they have a voice, which I don’t think it is. But also too that they feel confident in the folks that are running and want to keep things status quo.”
In general, Brown believes voter turnout is higher when there’s a hot button issue on the table and that a low turnout does not signal voter apathy. Moreno thinks voters are content.
Moreno said, “Even though that appears to be a low number, when there are contentious topics that come up and people feel very passionately, they will come out and vote. If they feel like there needs to be a change, that’s when they put forth their vote and exercise that power that they have.”
These elections results will not be official until next Wednesday, during the regular Council Meeting. Moreno looks forward to keeping the momentum of the tribe going.
“I just look forward to what we can do and what we can continue to do for them,” said Moreno.