Matt Hunter will be Sitka’s new mayor. He’ll be joined on the assembly by at least two new faces, and a massive budget gap to plug beginning October 11.
Hunter is a Math and Science teacher at Mt. Edgecumbe High School. With just over 1,000 votes, he came in second only to the number of residents who voted down a 2-mill increase in the property tax.
He thinks the numbers will work out.
“That is okay. We can find other ways to close our fiscal gaps. This will be quite a ride for a few years. I think this will be a great assembly.”
Hunter has served four years on the assembly, making him the senior member in tenure of that group, after outgoing mayor Mim McConnell. At 34, he’s also the next-to-youngest member in age. Hunter likes crowdsourcing solutions to Sitka’s challenges. He wants residents to…
“Keep sending their ideas my way. I need to hear what people are thinking.”
Following up Hunter in the mayor’s race were Mary Magnuson and assembly incumbent Ben Miyasato.
Port and Harbors commissioner Kevin Knox will take a seat on the assembly, with 989 votes. He says voters sent a strong message opposing the property tax. Knox supported it, but he believes people trust him to act in their interest.
“I had a lot of people comment to me that I seem to be very diplomatic. It’s just the nature of my personality and who I am. And I think people really respect that and value that, I guess.”
Knox is a commercial pilot and a contractor who’s taking time out to raise his two-year old. He’s glad most assembly work happens after bedtime.
“One of the reasons I got into the race was because of wanting to be involved in the future, not only for all Sitkans, but also for my son.”
Joining Knox on the assembly will be another political newcomer, Aaron Bean. Bean is a commercial fisherman and a strong proponent of the marijuana industry. But he campaigned on keeping Sitka affordable.
“I knew I was kind of a shoe-in being a local boy, but I’m going to do a great job. I want to see the progress that we’re going to have, and what we’re going to do for the people that want to live here.”
Bean says his priority will be looking for ways to pare down the cost of the Blue Lake Dam through federal support.
And there will be a third face on the assembly, but that individual will be appointed. Matt Hunter is stepping up to mayor, and the assembly will have to choose a replacement. The group will probably take a hard look at the third place finisher in Tuesday’s election, Aaron Swanson, who just completed a three-year term, but was not returned to the assembly by voters. The assembly can appoint any qualified voter in Sitka to the seat. Alexander Allison and Evy Kinnear polled fourth and fifth respectively.
And finally, Sitka voters made a clear choice for school board. They returned SEARHC pediatrician Jennifer McNichol to the board by nearly a 2-1 margin over challenger Ed Gray, who was running for the second time on an anti-testing platform. McNichol was at a board meeting earlier in the evening and wasn’t present to watch the votes come in at Harrigan Centennial Hall. She told KCAW over the phone that “I appreciate the support of Sitkans, and Ed’s campaign for raising important issues that we need to think about.”
There are over 500 absentee ballots, and around 150 question ballots yet to be counted in this election — almost another precinct’s worth. Although it’s numerically possible that the outcome might be affected, none of the races have the razor-thin margin that is most likely to change in absentee counting. The outstanding ballots will counted this Friday, October 7, at 3 PM in Harrigan Centennial Hall.
In all, about 2,600 ballots were cast in the election, 900 more than last year’s election, but 700 fewer than in 2005, when voters decided a total of 10 ballot questions.
Note: This story was updated on 10-5-16 to correct Hunter’s rank, in age, on the assembly. Steven Eisenbeisz is currently the youngest member at 31, followed by Hunter, 34, Tristan Guevin, 36, and newcomers Aaron Bean, 37, and Kevin Knox, 45.