How many years have you lived in Sitka and in Alaska? Once upon a time long, long ago, I was born at Mt. Edgecumbe Hospital. I’ve been a resident of Sitka my entire life. I left for two extended periods of time (during the academic school year), both of which were in pursuit of higher education opportunities. Sitka is home.
Family: K’ayéitl’i yóo xat duwasáakw. My name is Crystal; my Tlingit name is K’ayéitl’i. Ch’áak’ naax xát sitee. Teikweidée áyá xát. Shaanax hít áwé haa naakahídi. I am an eagle (moiety) brown bear (clan) from the Valley House in Angoon. Sheet’káx’ yéi xat nawaat.I was born and raised in Sitka. Kiks.ádi yadix xát sitee. I am the child of the raven frog clan, meaning my father’s roots are Kiks.ádi from Sitka. I am the youngest child of Al and Pauline Duncan. I have two older sisters and two older brothers (Melonie Boord, Alicia “Lisa” Gassman, Albert Duncan, Franklin “Paul” Duncan). In total, I have eight nieces and nephews (Mitchell Boord, Albert “Alec” Duncan, Alicia “Alyse” Duncan, Tristian Duncan, Marlis Boord, Mirla Ashton Moctezuma Gamez, Nyla Duncan, Emma Gassman). My family is without question my greatest blessing. We are a family that hikes mountains together, harvests subsistence together, vacations together, has frequent family dinners (outside of COVID times) together, and yes, I have even called upon them to assist with this election campaign – to which they responded, “How can we help?”
Occupation: I am currently employed at the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium (ANTHC) as a Regional ANTHC Liaison for SEARHC Beneficiaries. Prior to this position, I worked for SEARHC, Sitka Tribe of Alaska and University of Alaska Southeast in the areas of health promotion, student support services, human resources, and program development and coordination. I am thankful to SEARHC for hosting me on their campus in my role with ANTHC. The goal of this position is to improve the patient experience for those who are receiving care at both Alaska Native Medical Center (ANMC) and SEARHC, through advocacy efforts, educational campaigns, and acting as a liaison between patient, organizations, and providers. I thoroughly enjoy the opportunity to help in this capacity.
Community involvement, past and present:
I can claim that I am a skilled mashed potato scooper, as honed by my involvement with the STA/ANB/ANS community Thanksgiving dinner… and, I can reference my great ability to sort and box up books following the annual Friends of Sitka Public Library book sale… but the reality is my capacity to impact the community of Sitka outside my work took off in recent months.
In June, a fellow community member posted a picture of the Baranov statue and called for its removal. My response was, “How can I help make this happen?” I realized at that point, I didn’t know the process involved, and I would be more successful by pulling in people who could help navigate seeing this through. I created a Facebook group dedicated to social justice and racial equity, whose membership is still climbing. This group serves to foster communication and develop strategy to address concerns in our community. Regarding Baranov, I hope most can agree it was handled in a dignified manner in that the statue now has a home in our local museum. This issue was just the first step of many to come in my efforts to positively impact Sitka.
Have you previously run for public office? When and what office?
While employed at the University of Alaska Southeast (UAS), I was elected UAS Vice President of Staff Council, which meant I was also the designated UAS Officer serving on the UA Staff Alliance governance group.
In addition, I served in an advisory role for the following: Chancellor’s Advisory Committee on Cultural Safety and Equity, Chancellor’s Advisory Committee on Alaska Native Education, and Title IX Campus Safety Committee.
In truth, my life plan did not involve running for a public position. Before submitting my packet, I had to ensure I was fully committed to the responsibility of making decisions on behalf of Sitkans, and I am.
Previous government or other relevant experience:
I was a contract secretary with the City and Borough of Sitka for a period of 1.5 years on three commissions: Planning & Zoning Commission, Tourism Commission, and Port & Harbors Commission. This experience lends me important background knowledge on how the City and the Assembly operate.
I also have years of experience working for the Sitka Tribe of Alaska, a co-equal tribal government, in the education department, tourism department, and administrative services department. During that time I staffed a committee chaired by a Tribal Council member, provided monthly reports for the Council meeting packets, and worked to carry out their strategic initiatives for the benefit of Tribal Citizens.
Why are you running for a seat on the Sitka Assembly this year?
If elected to the Assembly, I will bring a diversity of perspectives that will help inform decisions that are made on behalf of our community. While that seems like a judgment of the current Assembly, it’s not. I was taught by my father to not just complain, but offer a solution. As I tried to devise a strategy to address the lack of diversity as this election cycle neared, I found myself volunteering. I am a qualified Alaska Native female candidate who will do this job well.
It’s disheartening and intimidating to look at your elected officials and realize you do not see yourself readily reflected by the current leadership. Our government must be accessible to all, and my way of creating a community bridge is to actively engage the public to be a part of this process. They are experts, I need to tap into that.
The second reason I am running is because our elders have spent a lifetime preparing us to take over the leadership role. By stepping forward, I am assuring them that they can relax because I will now carry the load.
What are your top two priorities if elected?
A Healthy Community: Whether Sitka is recognized by USA Today as one of the Top 10 Best Historic Towns, is a recipient of the Robert Johnson Wood Foundation award for building a culture of health, or is referenced by Loretta’s husband during a Superbowl 2020 ad as one of her favorite places to visit, we have a lot to offer. This year provided challenges that our community, and on a larger scale, the world, didn’t quite see coming – and unfortunately there is no end in sight. The Assembly needs to make sound decisions that will protect the health of our residents, our economy, and our quality of life.
An Accessible Economy: Like other communities, a shrinking budget means we are tasked to do more with less support. Our town can promote the common good by maintaining city services, making wise investments, supporting affordable housing efforts, exploring funding options and partnering opportunities, and using an equity lens to create an economy that works for everyone.
What is your philosophy for funding city government (including enterprise funds, electricity, water, etc)?
Budgets are about priorities, and my priority is maintaining the essential services that every person, family, organization, and business needs in our rural community. Our assembly must spend within our means while maintaining infrastructure and community services that include harbors, power lines, schools, health care, public safety, libraries, and roads.
I will not come in with the intent to slash all budgets or raise taxes, my approach is for us to spend responsibly. I understand we have a lot of needs in the community. I will provide fresh ideas, generated from community members, coupled with a willingness to work together on budget issues. Sitka is not affordable to many, and while the Assembly cannot solve this problem in isolation, I look forward to exploring those hot button items such as lack of affordable housing, increased cost of living expenses, the tax structure, etc.
Should we fund the Sitka School District to the maximum allowable by state law?
I am the daughter of an accomplished retired Sitka School District teacher. I am also the daughter of a man who at graduation celebrations states to his children and grandchildren “I value an education because I never had one.” Largely due to my parents, I am a strong advocate of the opportunity that education provides to students and therefore without hesitation I support funding public education to the cap. Not only am I a graduate from Sitka High School, my entire K-12 education was provided in our district.
It is important to note that our school district cannot generate revenue, with funding dependent on the city, state, and federal government. Our district relies on the community, and on our assembly, to provide the funds to give our kids the first-rate education they deserve. If elected I will continue to prioritize youth and education.
The assembly has seen unprecedented challenges with the COVID-19 pandemic- both in keeping Sitka safe and distributing federal financial relief throughout the community. Do you believe the assembly’s responses to the coronavirus pandemic have been satisfactory? Why or why not?
I’ll start off by acknowledging 1) the position of an Assembly member is often a thankless one. I have respect for the seven who are serving at a time when there is no handbook on how to successfully navigate through a pandemic, and; 2) Monday morning quarterbacking is a luxury that exists because the virus has yet to take hold and result in major loss of life in Sitka – for that I’m grateful.
As I review the livestream of decisions the Assembly made in the March-June time frame, I see how this body tried to achieve balance between preventing the spread of COVID-19, and the economic viability of our economy which is heavily dependent upon an active tourism season. While I don’t agree with every decision that was made, some of the positive things that occurred early on include the creation of a unified command structure that relied heavily upon the recommendations of our incident command team, a team of medical experts who pulled in information provided by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and other experts. By partnering this team was able to explore options and solidify a message to residents experiencing heightened anxiety in these coronavirus times.
Assuming the situation doesn’t change by 2021, what should the assembly’s proactive response be to keep the community safe and safeguard the economy?
Our community will benefit if we continue the following in response to this pandemic:
1. First and foremost, following public health guidelines as outlined by the CDC will help manage the pandemic. Related to this, we have our own medical experts actively monitoring the situation in Southeast Alaska, and here in Sitka, continuing to have a dialogue with our partners will help shape the appropriate response by the Assembly.
2. Our economy was hit hard by the pandemic. Funding from the CARES act softened the economic damage that would have been greater otherwise; an assembly willing to explore funding options and ensure those dollars are distributed equitably to those in need will help soften the strain on our local economy.
3. The Assembly should continue a dialogue with Sitkans, including the various business sectors. Like I said there is no handbook, so input from those impacted will be valuable as the Assembly tries to balance the safety of our community and the health of our community.
What role should the assembly play in addressing social justice and racial equity in Sitka, if any?
The result from generations of inequity and exploitation is extreme disparities in health, wealth, power and access, divided along racial lines. – Evon Peter, Vice Chancellor at UAF
Our Assembly indirectly influences the disparities of health, wealth, power, and access in our community through policies, but the Assembly directly impacts equity of power and access every day. I don’t frame social justice and racial equity in terms of statues; I see these issues embedded in every resolution, ordinance, and practice carried out by this governing body. I grew up in Sitka; I know our history. We have made progress, but still have work to do to create a better community for all. On this path, we can serve as a model for other communities to follow suit.
Sheet’ka is rich with cultural diversity, unique life experiences, and a community that embraces system changes that will benefit our neighbors. I will continue to amplify the ideas and concerns that are brought my way. Moreover I will seek out information, ideas, and perspectives to ensure I fully understand each issue. This is a topic that I am passionate about, and I look forward to tackling it head o
Advocacy and Opposition
How do you respond when you sense growing public opposition to an ordinance you support? What if you sponsored the ordinance, and feel it’s in the best interest of the public that it pass?
I have spent a lifetime honing my ability to see the world through the lenses of those around me. I am skilled when it comes to taking the temperature of the room, identifying possible barriers that might exist around an ordinance I support, and revising if that serves the best interest of my community. In those instances where I feel strongly in support of an ordinance that is caught up in the winds of opposition, I would remind myself not to get discouraged; I would also use education as a tool to reshape or at least communicate clearly why my level of support is unwavering. With a business background, I often explore an action in two ways: what are the unintended consequences if we pass this, and what are the tradeoffs if we pass this. In doing so, we are less likely to be back at the table redressing a previous decision.
These questions complement my approach to listening. I approach conversations to first understand, and then to be understood. I look forward to working through issues with a segment of the community who are not actively involved in our government process.