How many years have you lived in Sitka and in Alaska? After arriving in Sitka in 1988 I left for a decade in 1994 to pursue career opportunities elsewhere in Alaska, Hawaii and overseas. Since returning in 2004 I’ve lived here continuously except for a year at the National Science Foundation, 2016-17.
Family: I am not married and do not have children. I am very close to my brother and his family. He and his wife raised their children in Dillingham, where my brother is the CEO of the local telecom and electric utility. My niece is a graduate of UAF and is currently in graduate school, and my nephew is working as a civil engineer.
Community involvement, past and present:
I am a supporter of a number of local non-profits, but the bulk of my volunteer work has been with the AFS International Exchange Program, of which I am an alum.
Have you previously run for public office?
Previous government or other relevant experience:
Sitka Library Commission, 2004-7 (approximately)
Alaska Professional Teaching Practices Commission, 2015-16
Alaska State Board of Education and Early Development, 2016-19
Why are you running for a seat on the Sitka Assembly this year?
I’m running for Assembly because I love Sitka, and I want to help our community through this challenging time.
Decades ago I left Sitka to see if there was something else I liked better. After living and working in Southwest Alaska, Hawaii and overseas, I realized Sitka is my permanent home. I’ve been back since 2004, with a one-year break for a fellowship with the National Science Foundation in 2016-17. I’m grateful for the opportunities I’ve had in Sitka, and I feel I have the skills to be part of the team that leads our community in recovering from the pandemic.
Our municipal elections are non-partisan for a reason. Our local government should be focused on meeting the needs of Sitkans and finding local solutions to local problems. As a long-time resident of Sitka, I know this community and many of its residents. I’m running to help our community thrive and grow, not to advance a political agenda.
What are your top two priorities if elected?
My first priority as a member of the Assembly is to be prepared, thoughtful, respectful and responsive. I commit to listening, learning, and working toward consensus whenever possible.
My second priority is helping our community recover from the pandemic. With the federal funds we have left, we should focus on assisting the business, organizations and individuals who have experienced the most severe economic impacts, and make sure that our essential institutions, like SEARHC, have the resources they need to take care of Sitkans. I’ll look carefully at our City budget to identify opportunities to save money or shift spending to areas where it is needed as a result of the pandemic. I support municipal investment in infrastructure that our businesses need to survive, including but not limited to a marine haulout facility and boatyard that meets the needs of our commercial fishing fleet. I will be a strong advocate for policies that help Sitkans start new businesses, and help our existing businesses start growing again.
What is your philosophy for funding city government (including enterprise funds, electricity, water, etc)?
My uncle taught me the simple art of budgeting: spend less than you earn; words to live by as a teacher of modest income. Because the City budget is much more complex than my personal finances, I commit to investing time to understand our community budget, but the principle my uncle taught me will apply to my decisions.
The cost of City services, such as electricity, water and sewer, are a burden on many residents. I welcome opportunities to restructure our debt, but those debts need to be paid. The best way to limit future cost increases is to ensure that we maintain our existing infrastructure. With respect to any new investments, I will ensure that we fully understand and minimize the burden of costs on our current residents and future generations.
Economic growth and strategic partnerships have the potential to bring new revenue to town. The Assembly needs to have business-friendly policies. I would like to see the City collaborate with tribal entities to bring additional resources and opportunities to our community. The Assembly should also be supportive of and responsive to nonprofit organizations which provide important services to residents and bring visitors and Outside funding to Sitka.
Should we fund the Sitka School District to the maximum allowable by state law?
Yes. A high-quality public education is the foundation of a healthy and prosperous community. Good schools are a critical part of what makes our community attractive to families with children. And schools provide more than just education – our public school students benefit from nutritious meals, a wide range of enrichment activities, from shop classes to athletics and the arts, and the social opportunities of daily interaction with a diverse group of their peers. If we fail to adequately fund our schools, Sitka risks becoming a community of seniors and summer residents.
However, as an educator, I want to emphasize that funding is only one element of maintaining good schools and a thriving community. I believe the Assembly can do a better job of communicating and partnering with the Sitka School District to improve education. Sitka has a track record of supporting the schools and opportunities for our children, and the support the district has received to help re-open this fall in light of Covid concerns has been humbling. I’m proud of Sitka’s commitment to high quality schools, and it’s one of the reasons I chose to make my career here.
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?
COVID-19 has taught all of us to remain flexible as the situation changes frequently. The only constant during this pandemic is change. In general, I think the Assembly has done a good job responding to both public health and economic challenges. The City’s utilities and moorage subsidies were beneficial in providing Sitkans with support while also ensuring the city could maintain our public infrastructure during a time of economic hardship. Other uses of the City’s federal pandemic response funds – for grants to private businesses and programs to subsidize housing costs, food, childcare, mental health services and employment – represent a good effort to benefit as many residents of our community as possible.
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?
The Assembly should closely monitor the situation, seek information from federal, state and local public health experts, and be responsive. We should support City staff and work closely with a variety of partners, including but not limited to SEARHC, Sitka Tribe, federal agencies and the business community to look for resources and opportunities to mitigate impacts. The City should maintain close contact with our representatives in the federal and state government to ensure they are aware of our challenges and needs. The Assembly needs to listen to the concerns of business owners, employers and the school district to ensure the City is as supportive of their needs as possible. Sitka is resilient, and by uniting in these uncertain times we will weather whatever is ahead.
What role should the assembly play in addressing social justice and racial equity in Sitka, if any?
All Americans are entitled to justice and equity under the U.S. Constitution – these principles are at the heart of our nation and should not be controversial. All residents of Sitka should have the opportunity to participate fully in local government and feel represented by the Assembly. As a member of the Assembly, I will listen to all concerns related to social justice. I will look for opportunities to promote healing from past discrimination, and address inequity in our current and future policies and programs. I believe the Assembly should continue to strengthen its government-to-government relationship with Sitka Tribe of Alaska, and fully recognize the value STA and other tribal entities bring to all residents of our community.
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?
Since I have not served on the Assembly in the past, I do not have the personal experience to answer this question, but I will draw on my experience serving on the state Board of Education with representatives from across Alaska who had ideas and priorities that were occasionally different from mine. I am the type of person who does her homework, listens to different opinions, and works towards compromise, and whenever possible, consensus.
As a member of the Assembly, I would seek information from subject experts, and solicit opinions and explore concerns of local residents before sponsoring an ordinance. I intend to build on my decades in Sitka to reach out to community members outside my circle to get different perspectives, and I would be realistic about the time needed to develop ordinances that address local concerns. I am also committed to building strong relationships with other members of the Assembly and hope to be able to reach compromises on ordinances that are controversial. Another strategy that I would consider is referring issues to ad hoc committees of Sitka residents to study the issue and make recommendations to the Assembly.