How many years have you lived in Sitka and in Alaska?
I have lived in Sitka since July of 1993 when I came here to work onboard the USCGC Woodrush as a cook. I finished out my tour here, and of course fell in love with Sitka and Alaska, and have been here ever since.
I work as an accountant with Shee Atiká, Incorporated.
My wife and I have been married for 24 years. We have 5 adult children, the youngest of whom is 18 years old, and finishing her last year of high school. Having children has been one of the most fulfilling aspects of my life, and I am so glad to have been able to raise them all here in Sitka.
I have been serving as an assembly member for the past 3 years.
Have you previously run for office? When and what office?
I ran for assembly in October 2018.
Previous government or other relevant experience:
Serving on the Assembly has been my only experience working in government. I was in the USCG, from 1993-1996.
Why are you running for a seat on the Sitka Assembly this year?
My primary purpose for running for assembly is to promote community affordability and economic growth, with the purpose of helping all residents achieve and maintain a good quality of life here.
What are your top two priorities if elected?
My number one priority is to secure funding to repair our aging infrastructure. My second priority is looking for ways that the City can promote affordable housing, through infrastructure development, land sales and leases, land use regulation, grants, and working with other public, private and nonprofit entities
The sale of the former Sitka Community Hospital building will go to an advisory vote of the public this fall. When it goes to the ballot, will you honor the results of the advisory vote, even if you disagree with the outcome?
As long as the vote shows a clear majority, I intend to honor it. If the vote is very close, I will make what I believe is the best decision in consultation with other members of the Assembly.
At the end of July, the assembly approved a month-long temporary mask mandate following the surge of the coronavirus in Sitka over the summer. Do you support mask mandates, and would you vote in favor of one should Sitka see another rise in cases?
I voted in favor of our current mask mandate to help reduce the spread of Covid and keep our hospital from becoming overwhelmed. I support it being in effect when the case count is at a high status. Then whenever the case count is in any other status, the mandate disappears. This way we do not have to continue to have meetings to address this. It will be an automatic thing when we get in that danger zone.
Wrangell’s assembly recently instituted a mandatory COVID testing policy for interstate and international travelers at its airport. Across the country, city councils have taken a variety of approaches, from providing monetary vaccine incentives to requiring proof of vaccination for citizens to participate in various activities. What COVID legislation would you support on the Sitka Assembly?
I believe as a city we should be strongly recommending and promoting vaccines. Sitka’s vaccination rate is steadily rising, which is a very good thing. As stated above, I would like to see a mask mandate that takes effect whenever we are at a high case count. As far as requiring testing for interstate and international travelers, I am not in favor of that at this time. However, COVID is creating a very fluid situation. A year ago, I would not have supported a mask mandate, but I believe in monitoring trends and listening to the recommendations of public health experts, and so my position could change, depending on the situation on the ground.
What is your philosophy for funding city government (including enterprise funds, electricity, water, etc)? Do you believe the city should adopt new taxes to raise revenue? Spending cuts?
New taxes and increased fees should be the last option to pay for government services. We should do everything else first.
When I joined the Assembly, I pushed successfully for budget cuts. We identified ways that we could collect more revenue without raising rates, such as collecting delinquent payments on City leases. We refinanced some of the debt on the Blue Lake and Green Lake dams. This resulted in considerable savings, which can now be used to fund capital improvements. We have increased efforts to pursue grant funding from state and federal sources. Finally, I believe that we can raise more revenue through economic development: promoting tourism, developing a marine haul out, and selling and/or leasing city land that is not being used. The idea is to bring in more sales tax, property tax, and lease revenue, some of which will come from outside Sitka.
But there are limits to how much we can cut. The City is not immune to inflation. Increasing utility rates to keep up with rising costs of materials and labor is necessary to keep our enterprise funds healthy. I am willing to discuss new taxes if absolutely necessary to maintain our quality of life.
What’s your philosophy on school funding? Should we fund the Sitka School District to the maximum allowable by state law, or “the cap”?
As the father of five children educated in Sitka schools, I want all future students to enjoy the same high quality education my kids received. I believe we should fund the schools as much as we can afford to. I have supported funding to the state cap 2 out of the 3 years I have been on the Assembly. It is my goal to do so in the future, as long as it does not require us to sacrifice other essential functions of local government, such as infrastructure maintenance and public safety.
While COVID has led to a couple of down years for Sitka’s tourism industry, next year’s cruise ship numbers are predicted to break records. What should the assembly do to help Sitka prepare for the huge influx of tourists?
The assembly has asked the Planning commission to work on a short term tourism plan for the 2022 cruise ship season. This is only the first step in getting prepared for the high numbers. We need to work closely with Halibut Point Marine, the Greater Sitka Chamber of Commerce and other tourism interests to ensure that both the public and private sectors are working in tandem to ensure that visitors have a good experience, and tourism does not overwhelm public facilities. The cruise industry will bring great economic benefits to Sitka, but we need to be mindful about how to pay for the costs.
Earlier this year, the assembly established a climate action task force to investigate what actions Sitka can take to respond to climate change. Does the Assembly have a further role to play here- is there legislation you’d like to see the assembly pass in regards to climate change?
I plan to work with another assembly member on legislation to transition the climate action task force into a full commission. I believe if we are able to do so, and have a good team that liaises with the city staff and assembly, we can work together toward sustainable solutions that are affordable and that benefit everyone. It is my hope that we can secure federal funding for some of these projects, such as using our clean hydro power to fund transportation.
Describe one piece of legislation you would like to bring forward as an assembly member, and explain how you would fund it.
See above question.