The filing period to run for the Sitka Assembly and School Board is now open and the first candidate has come forward: Gary Paxton will run for Mayor. The born-and-raised Sitkan says he’d take a “less is more” approach to local government.
When I call Gary Paxton, there’s light classical music playing in the background. It wasn’t his idea to run for Mayor. He was approached by a group of citizens one month ago agreed. At 79 going on 80, the former City Administrator says he still has the energy for late night meetings and intense debate. “My wife and I, we go the gym twice a week for vigorous workout. We still play tennis,” he told KCAW over the phone.
Paxton will certainly have to bring his A-game if elected. The Assembly will see a shake-up this year, as the seats held by Mayor Matthew Hunter, Bob Potrzuski, and Ben Miyasato are up for re-election. Hunter does not plan to run again.
If elected, Paxton said he would prefer to cut city government before imposing taxes or further rate increases. He wants to take a magnifying glass to the city budget, saying, “The government has to look at the cost they’re imposing on citizens. They way you do that is by a really detailed analysis of the budget – I know how to do that, I did it before – and find out how and where cuts should be made.” Especially, he then adds, within the General Fund.
When it comes to the current Assembly, Paxton praised their service to the community, but criticized some of their recent ideas. Those include raising the threshold for public land sales (which passed) and tying a property tax increase to eliminating the sales tax on groceries (which failed).
Paxton said his supporters are also worried about the future management of Sitka Community Hospital. Though it began exactly one year ago, Paxton thinks the RFP process needs to slow down. “We need more time to assess: is this really what we want to do and what is the impact of doing these things?,” he said.
Paxton filed for the Mayoral seat in 2016, but withdrew after two weeks when the campaign became overwhelming. He said, “That was a false start and I apologize for that.” This time around, Paxton has a team to help him with advertising and fundraising. “So all I need to do is be available to talk to citizens and to people and to share and to listen to what they think I need to be concerned about.”
Paxton has also worked on the state level. In 2002, he joined the Department of Transportation as the Southeast Region Director before retiring in 2005.
The filing period for local office closes at 5 p.m. on Friday, August 3rd. Candidate packets are available on the third floor of City Hall. In addition to one two-year Mayoral seat and two three-year Assembly seats, two three-year school board seats are also open for election.