Aaron Bean is one of five candidates running for two open seats on the Assembly. The municipal election is Tuesday, October 4, 2016. (Emily Kwong/KCAW photo)

Aaron Bean has worn a great variety of hats. Born and raised in Sitka, Bean has worked as a commercial fisherman, police officer, natural resource specialist, tribal court caseworker, dive captain, and small business owner. He hopes to bring that entrepreneurial spirit to the Assembly table and grow Sitka’s economy. 

Downloadable audio.

Aaron Bean was talking to a friend recently, someone who lived in his neighborhood as a kid. And this man is thinking about leaving Sitka.

“He has the same income, if not more, than his family did growing up. They were able to afford the home that they lived in and they had a good life,” Bean said. “Now, he’s saying he has look at Juneau. He’s looking at moving to Hoonah. Because he just can’t afford to live in Sitka.”

Beans called the news ‘heartbreaking.’  “His kids aren’t going to have the opportunity my kids have over something as silly as a cost of living. And I don’t know if there’s political solutions, but if there are, I would like to exploit them.”

As a former natural resource specialist for Sitka Tribe of Alaska, Bean served on the advisory committee for ADF&G. But other than that, he’s largely new to the political process. He doesn’t identify with as a Republican or Democrat and has no aspirations beyond the Assembly.

He’s running simply out of a desire to strengthen Sitka’s economy and prevent people – like his childhood friend – from leaving. “Rather than sit on the sidelines and point the finger and talk about it, I’d rather actively try to pursue these avenues for Sitka,” Bean said.

One of Bean’s main ideas is for the city to work with the fisheries management council to buy quota and lease it to fisherman with smaller boats. “A lot of our fishermen are trollers, that have the potential to go out and harvest halibut and black cod, but they don’t necessarily have financial means to pull out these huge loans for quota. If they’re bringing it back and making landings here and can show they’re Sitka residents, that’s where I feel like I can make a difference,” he said.

Beans also wants to incentivize the city to sell land and businesses to create jobs. He wants to do this by offering tax breaks to companies that can demonstrate they’re offering year-round jobs, both for current residents and non-residents too. “I’ve talked to people that have come here, loved it, can’t afford to be here, have to leave. Against their will. That’s not in the pursuit of happiness. That’s not what this country was founded on,” Bean said. “The idea of, “I want to be here but I can’t because I can’t afford to,” should never be an issue in my opinion.”

Bean plans to vote “No” on Tuesday’s ballot question, which would raise the cap on the mill rate by two mills and dedicate one mill to the electric fund to stabilize the increase of electric rates. Bean doesn’t want to see taxes or electric rates increase, at all.

“What can we do to contribute to the power grid rather than tax what’s there? I don’t want to cut more slices out of this pie. We need to make the pie bigger.” Bean said. “What can we do? What do we have at our fingertips here?”

Bean has described himself as wanting to be a conduit for Sitkans, bringing their ideas to the Assembly table. Now, it’s fair to say that ideas take time to put in motion and this year’s Assembly will have a budget gap of $3 million to resolve. For that, Bean said he’d rather see reductions to the size of city government and infrastructure.

KCAW: A lot of Assembly members – even candidates – take the stance that we need to keep our infrastructure going and getting better.

Bean: And I wouldn’t disagree with that. Everyone wants that. I also would like a nice Cessna-185 that I can fly around. I can’t afford that. If my car is broken down or my alternator is out or I have a dead battery, I don’t push the car aside and buy a new one. We’re just in a place right now where we can’t afford to pay for what we have. So, those are questions and discussions that have to take place at some point.

Bean is eager to be a part of those conversations. The charter captain recently cleared both state and legal hurdles to open a marijuana grow and retail operation, called Green Leaf LLC located in the 4600 block of Halibut Point Road. He attended nearly every meeting of the marijuana advisory committee and has a lot of faith in the democratic process. “Some input or a little insight could change the direction of the industry. Some insight and some input could change the direction of our municipality,” he explained.

He added, “I’m confident I have the tools to do this , otherwise I wouldn’t’ be running.” Reporting in Sitka, I’m Emily Kwong.

Read Aaron Bean’s candidate statement here.