How many years have you lived in Sitka and in Alaska? 28 years
Family: My family is growing! Just over one year ago my wife and I had our first child, Fisher. Quite the hands on learning experience. I am fortunate enough to have many family members in town, including my Mom, Brother and lots of in-laws. Having a large family circle in town makes living here much easier.
Occupation: Retail store owner, Russell’s
Community involvement, past and present:
Currently I am a volunteer at Sitka Fire Department as a Firefighter, was a certified EMT and briefly served with Search and Rescue, Member of the Gary Paxton Industrial Park board, Chamber Board Member, Police and Fire commissioner, Downtown Revitalization group. Additionally serving Sitka as an Assembly member, I had liaison opportunities with the Gary Paxton Industrial park board, Tree and Landscape, Sitka Economic Development Association and Sitka Community Hospital board. I was the Chair of the assembly’s hiring review committee while it existed.
Have you previously run for public office? When and which office?
Yes, I was appointed to the GPIP board of Directors and Police and Fire Commission. In 2014 I was elected to the Assembly, and re elected in 2017. Of those 6 years I spent one year as Vice Deputy Mayor, and three as Deputy Mayor.
Previous government or other relevant experience:
During my time on the assembly I have represented the City at multiple Alaska Municipal League meetings, have gone to Juneau on Legislative lobbing trips. These have allowed me face to face time with State department directors, legislators, senators and other local Mayors. Its always refreshing to see how others are accomplishing the same goals, and to bring fresh ideas back to Sitka. These previous meetings will allow me to step in seamlessly, as the initial report is already there.
Why are you running for Mayor of Sitka this year?
Sitka will be the place I raise my son, grow my business, and call home for my lifetime. Not only do I want Sitka to be a great place today, but I want to lay the framework to make Sitka great for our future generations. Young families have struggles today that are unlike anything experienced in that past. I want to lead us into the next generation Sitka.
What are your top two priorities if elected?
My main priority, with assembly concurrence, will be to review our city’s long range plans. I believe with careful review, we can mitigate rate increases while preserving our infrastructure. Additionally, with assembly backing I want to further explore ways to keep families in town. This looks like many different things to different people, but can include Schools, Cost of Living, New Infrastructure and Repairs(Marine Haulout), Housing and Quality of Life.
What is the mayor’s role on the assembly and how do you see yourself fulfilling that role?
Most important, the Mayor is the leader of Assembly meetings. It will be my role to insure our business is conducted in an efficient, respectful and professional manner. I want to help new members learn the proper procedures to conduct assembly business, and to learn from the efforts of past assembly’s. As Mayor I will also be a ceremonial figurehead for the city. It is important that this be taken seriously, as having the Mayor at your event should be an honor, not a check in the box. Finally, the Mayor is responsible for representing the city in legislative trips and conferences. You must remember that you are face of the city at these events, and people will judge your town based on your encounters.
What is your philosophy for funding city government (including enterprise funds, electricity, water, etc)?
This is the hardest balancing act the assembly is responsible for. We all want the power to come on when a switch is flipped, and clean fresh water in our taps. But I have heard, recognize and understand that the citizens ability to pay is being maxed out. Costs of providing the services have increased, especially with a reduction in state funding for infrastructure needs. I intend to take a harder look over the next two years at what we can afford, not what we want to have. Revisions of our long range infrastructure plans can help with keeping cost increases to a minimum.
Should we fund the Sitka School District to the maximum allowable by state law?
The easy answer is yes. That should always be the starting point of our budget talks. School funding spends all of the property tax revenue plus some. So we should always have that as a base, with the general fund making up the rest. Each year this needs to be evaluated with open and honest conversations to the school board. Both the City and the Schools are going to have different needs at different times. Additionally, the city must start planning for school building replacements, as the money is not currently available.
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?
Our EOC has done an incredible job at mitigating the risk to our citizens, while moving forward with economic activity once permitted by the state. I have had the opportunity to travel out of state once during covid, and we are so far ahead of Kansas in multiple areas. It was really eye opening to see how others are handling Covid. The assembly’s response initially was strong. We didn’t know much about the Virus, and took the needed steps to allow our hospital time to prepare. Currently, the assembly’s response is limited by the public’s willingess to accept them, as witnessed by the lack of support for a mask mandate.
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?
This is a very likely situation. Covid will not go away anytime soon. The assembly should listen to three groups when formulating public policy. We must consider advise from our EOC, the state, and our citizens. All three of these should mesh together in creating the best policy for our city.
What role should the assembly play in addressing social justice and racial equity in Sitka, if any?
The assembly should be aware of social justice issues, and how that affects our citizens. We need to be alert to policy that may be repressive to groups or segments of our population. Any policy or code contrary to that should be modified. We as an assembly also need to set the tone that any discrimination, including hate speech, will not be tolerated. I will also acknowledge that I have more to learn about repression and am willing to listen to those can teach me.
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?
The great thing about an elected body is the opportunity for many voices, representing diverse backgrounds and multiple groups of people. I am open to changing my mind if discussion at the table and offline with citizens compels it. While I intend to act in the best interest of the public, my opinion may be mistaken, and I am open to that. That’s part of why we must allow for complete public participation at assembly meetings. All citizens voices should be heard, respectfully, with no restriction on the allowed three minute time frame.