Sitka’s municipal election results were certified by the assembly on Tuesday (10-13-20). Raven News connected with a few of the candidates shortly after the election to find out how they were feeling in their post election bliss.
3312 people voted in Sitka’s municipal election this year. That’s the second highest voter turnout for a city election in the last two decades, with most voters participating early. Municipal clerk Sara Peterson and a team of election officials counted just under 1700 early and absentee ballots last week, and that wave of votes sealed the deal for the next assembly and school board.
Steven Eisenbeisz is Sitka’s newest Mayor. Though Eisenbeisz and incumbent Gary Paxton were fewer than thirty votes apart when the initial returns were tallied, Eisenbeisz surged ahead when the absentee ballots were added in, receiving 1850 votes.
Crystal Duncan and Rebecca Himschoot also surged ahead, winning the two open assembly seats. After the final count, Duncan received 1964 votes, and Himschoot received 1789.
Eisenbeisz was unavailable for an interview shortly after his victory was announced on October 7, for a very Sitka reason.
“I was getting ready to run some fuel out to some friends who had run out of fuel on their boat, so I guess my first mayoral duty was a boat rescue,” he said in an interview with KCAW on October 8. “To be elected, it’s definitely an honor. It’s fulfilling,” he said. “I think that after 6 years on the assembly, the town has known where I stand and who I am. To have that many people believe in you and your thoughts and your ideas, it’s extremely humbling. And I guess now it’s time to get to work and make sure I don’t let everyone down.”
Eiesenbeisz said he’s excited for the next two years and believes the assembly will be able to collaborate and be effective as it makes policy.
“I believe we have an assembly that is now going to have a diverse amount of opinions and thoughts,” he said. “But it is going to be able to work together for the greater good. I think we have a lot of opportunity to move Sitka forward and to overcome the challenges that we’re currently facing.”
Rebecca Himschoot said she was grateful, and ready to get started, while acknowledging the assembly will face some difficult decisions over her three-year term.
“I feel super humbled by the outcome. I feel grateful and I feel a little bit terrified,” she said. “The decisions that we’re going to have to make are really big and really hard, and I care very deeply about this community and about what the people in the community think and how they feel and how they’re doing,” she said.
“Knowing that I’m part of some really big decisions that are going to impact people, there’s a lot of gravity to that,” Himschoot said.
In an email to KCAW, assembly member Crystal Duncan said that she was with family while she awaited results on election night.
“I invited them for dinner to celebrate the end of this campaign. We ate Chinese food, toasted Martinelli’s, and listened to the first round of results,” she wrote. “I won the sign game, and was sitting pretty good, so that lessened the anxiety of the waiting game.”
“I’m excited and humbled to take on this new responsibility,” Duncan said of her three-year term on the assembly. “I know it won’t be easy, but just like I said during the campaign, I’m not working in isolation. I have an entire community of supporters who can help me figure things out as I go!”
Andrew Hames and Blossom Twitchell will retain their seats on the Sitka School Board. After early votes were tallied, Twitchell surpassed Cass Pook by just over 200 votes.
“I couldn’t have done it without my family and friends, and the people of Sitka who voted,” Twitchell said. “And finally, I would like to reach out and ask that people tell my high school teachers that I’m finally reaching my potential! And above all, thank you, everyone.”
“I feel really great. I’ve really enjoyed the short time I’ve been on the school board so far, and I’m excited to keep working with the team. And I’m very honored that so much of the community agrees with that,” said Hames. He is most concerned about the upcoming budget process. He knows it will be “gnarly.” But there is an upside.
“I feel a little better knowing that the whole community, state, and country are in the same boat. So we’re going to need to work together to figure things out,” he said.
Editor’s Note: This story originally aired on October 8, 2020 and has been updated to include final vote counts.