Brinnen Carter

Age: 52

How many years have you lived in Sitka and in Alaska? 5 years

Describe your family: I have been married to my wife Jennifer for 25 years. My son Benjamin attends Thomas College in Waterville, Maine and my daughter Isabel is a 9th-grader at Sitka High School. Jennifer works at the Sitka Fine Arts Camp as Director of Teacher Education. Jennifer and I have strived to help Benjamin and Isabel to be mature and thoughtful about their words and actions. We re-enforce the values of kindness and generosity.

Occupation:  I am an archaeologist and I work for the National Park Service as a Resource Program Manager.

Current community involvement:  I have served on the Board of the Sitka Maritime Heritage Society for five years, worked and volunteered as a soccer referree for the Sitka High Soccer team for four years, and served on the GeoTask Force Work Group and Indian River Management Workshop group.

Previous government or other relevant experience: I have 20 years of experience working for the federal government in a variety of roles. My experience has gradually increased in breadth to include environmental compliance and project scoping and planning. Projects include everything from building re-habilitation to transportation safety to the arts.

Why are you running for the Sitka Assembly this year?  As part of my career, I have taken several personality tests to assess my leadership strengths. They have uniformly shown that I am “pure creative.” I believe a strong, creative leader is what Sitka needs now—to both gather and foster the best ideas from the community and lend creative ideas to the current government. I am also a positive person who is ready to encourage everyone to bring ideas forward that will advance our community. Additionally, several community members who know my personality and capabilities asked me to run.

What are your top two priorities if elected?  First I would like to identify and foster ideas and activities that will sustainably grow the economy of Sitka, some of which are described in the current Comprehensive Plan. Probably the highest among the identified actions would be completing planning and zoning actions for Granite Creek and Katlian Street, with a secondary emphasis on modifying specific development rules to encourage infill and increased densities in selected areas (e.g. downtown and Greater downtown). Second, I would like to make the city permitting process as fast and efficient as possible, while assuring that public assets and community values are protected.


What’s your philosophy for funding city government, which includes enterprise funds (electricity, etc.) and the Sitka School District. Is Sitka living within its means? If not, what should be done to change that?

I believe that our city government needs to concentrate on infrastructure.  Funding infrastructure construction and maintenance is expensive in Alaska.  For many years, that cost has been subsidized—or completely paid for—by the state and federal government. Reductions in those revenues means that the city now has to fund most or all of the work.  Enterprise funds are good because they can provide good revenue-to-expenditure tracking.  The mental distance from “I paid my electrical bill” to “The money will help maintain the electrical system” is short.  The School District can’t be funded in this way.

I think the City is generally “living within its means” now, although the calculus for the Blue Lake dam was wildly wrong.  That debt, which is driving the Electrical Department to push demand, will consume significant City revenue for the short and medium term, and may require further electrical rate hikes.  In the long run, the dam will be a boon for the economy, but the payoff is further away and much more expensive than originally thought.  For other services, if the current tax structure is maintained (as is likely through voter referenda), trimming the “less essential” services is likely and there needs to be increasing emphasis on compliance with existing taxes.  This means fair property assessments and sales taxes that are collected effectively and efficiently.  The City will need to pursue collecting sales taxes on mail order sales coming into Sitka, check compliance with current sales tax exemptions, and assure that all harbor and public service fees are uniformly collected.



The city will soon enter negotiations to sell Sitka Community Hospital to SEARHC. Do you support the merger of Sitka’s two hospitals? Why or why not? And if elected, what would you do to drive or reverse that process?

I support improving the quality and types of healthcare available in Sitka, at the same or less cost, by whatever means are effective.  Given its current size and regional focus, I think SEARHC has the highest likelihood of accomplishing what I support.  Given what I support, I will not drive or reverse that process, but will try to assure that ANY solution meets the goals of improved health care and stabilizing costs. Additionally, around 50% of the Medicare dollars spent on Sitkans leaves the community immediately whenever people fly to Seattle or Anchorage (among other cities) for medical treatment.  Increasing the treatment rates here should be a priority, along with drawing patients from other communities around Southeast Alaska for routine procedures that would normally be performed in Anchorage, Seattle, or farther afield.  Another complication will be how to handle the City’s pension obligations.


Ballot Questions 

There are two question on the ballot, one calling for the sales tax exemption for senior citizens to be reinstated, and the other exempting Sitka from thestatewide public smoking ban. Where do you stand on these issues?

While I will, of course, respect and stand with the decision of the voters, I personally think the entire tax structure of the City needs to be re-evaluated so it can be more equitable and sustainable.  As for the exemption from the smoking ban, I feel there should be some places where people can smoke and drink at the same time.  On occasion, I enjoy the Pioneer Bar and Ernie’s as they are. They remind me of the Shady Oak Bar on the St. Johns River. Over the long run, most bars find that instituting no-smoking policies is good for business and things change without government action. Of course, a smoke-free environment is healthier for workers and patrons.



Sitka has a severe lack of affordable homes, as well as a homeless population without shelter. What role – if any – does the Assembly have in supporting affordable housing and shelter?

The current Sitka community and assembly has charted an effective path to addressing the affordable housing crunch in Sitka with the 2030 Comprehensive Plan.  Implementing these planning and zoning changes at an accelerated pace will be the fastest way for the Assembly to increase affordable housing at the lowest cost.    Additionally, the Assembly can encourage the establishment of sustainable businesses that pay higher salaries as a way to help, working on the income side of the equation.  The private sector also has a role.  Having not-for-profit housing authorities, a revolving affordable housing fund, and entrepreneurs willing to build lower cost homes could all help the situation. I support a shelter, as long as it is a community asset that will be used—and has the support of the neighborhood in which it is constructed.  I will not commit to funding a shelter without knowing the scope of the City’s budget and commitments at the time, and how a shelter fits into those commitments.


Sitka has deferred maintenance on multiple pieces of infrastructure. To replace harbors, for instance, moorage rates have been raised. The city is seeking state bonds. What do you think of the city’s approach to capital repairs?

Bonding infrastructure reconstruction is a well-established method of funding repairs and replacement.  The key is assuring that the revenue from the constructed asset can pay down the bond during its service life, or that the asset’s service life is longer than the period of the bond.  A more financially conservative approach is to create a sinking fund–essentially a savings account–that the community pays into so that reconstruction is paid in-cash. I  would like to see a mix of approaches, with any asset constructed with bond funding lasting at least twice as long as the bond.  Alternatively, revenue from the constructed asset should be able to pay down the bond and provide operating funds, as well, without rate increases that substantially decrease Sitka’s competitiveness as a community.


Describe your decision-making style. If elected, what kind of Assembly member do you want to be? What do you want the public to know about who you are as a leader?

I believe in well-informed decision-making and–perhaps more importantly–good agenda-setting and goal-setting.  I like to gather lots of information from multiple sources, including substantial research on my own, and come to an independent “best solution”  first.  Working in a body like the Assembly, after coming up with an independent “best solution,” I would “compare notes” with fellow Assembly members and use the collective knowledge of the Assembly to make the best possible decision.  I don’t like grand-standing or unnecessary drama.  As I previously mentioned, my leadership style is creative and forward-thinking, with a focus on results and a tolerance for some risk if the rewards are substantial and depend on the skills of our community, which are significant.  I am also an optimistic person who believes that Sitkans have strengths that have served them well in the past and will continue to serve them (and each other) well into the future, too.  We can do it!