How many years have you lived in Sitka and in Alaska?
I am a program manager for a regional non-profit, Alaska Native Voices, that trains and employs cultural heritage guides to serve the tourism industry and promote sustainable economic growth in Southeast Alaska.
I am part of a large family who have made Sitka our home for over 60 years. My family has a long history of community service dating back to my great grand parents. I have raised my own children and provided a safe home life for many children through foster care.
Over the decades of living in Sitka, I have served the community as a volunteer and a leader in many local organizations. I served for 8 years on the Sitka Tribe of Alaska Tribal Council. During that time, I held a variety of roles, such as Chair of the Enrollment committee, SEARHC Board of Director for the tribe, Treasurer, Secretary and Vice-Chair. I have also been elected as Vice Chair for the Alaska Native Sisterhood, President of the local chapter of the Tlingit & Haida Community Council, and Board of Director for the Fortress of the Bears. I currently serve on the Board of Directors for the Alaska Native American Indian Tourism Association. I regularly volunteer for fundraisers that support families in times of need and youth sports programs. During the pandemic, I’ve sewn and donated hundreds of masks to help community members protect themselves.
Have you previously run for office? When and what office?:
I ran for and was elected to Tribal Council of the Sitka Tribe of Alaska for four terms. I was also elected as the President of the local chapter of the Tlingit & Haida Community Council.
Previous government or other relevant experience:
As an elected official of the Sitka Tribe of Alaska, a sovereign national government, I gained years of experience in public policy and management. In that role, I attended Government-to-Government meetings with the City & Borough of Sitka, where we collaborated to help all Sitkans on a range of issues such as emergency preparedness and emergency response to the devastating landslides in 2015. As a Tribal Council member, I became familiar with the function of many federal agencies as well, through STA cooperative agreements.
Why are you running for a seat on the Sitka Assembly this year?
I am compelled, especially now in a global pandemic, to do what I can to support the health of our community in the best way possible. The economic squeeze of the pandemic has made Sitka’s affordability crisis even more dire. By improving access to home loans, land, and employment more Sitkans can become homeowners. I feel strongly that no one in our community should live without a roof over their head.
As a mother of six children, I support our School Board in their efforts to deliver the best education to our children. Our schools are an investment in a new generation of young community leaders.
I am heartened by all of the people who have encouraged me to run for a seat on the Assembly. They are giving me the inspiration to put my name and experience on the ballot for the betterment of our community.
What are your top two priorities if elected?
The health and welfare of our community is paramount. We have never been tested more to pull together for our families, neighbors, and friends to be healthy, and keep each other safe. My second priority is to address our affordability crisis. Too many Sitkans struggle just to find adequate housing, and many young families are priced out of homeownership.
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?
It is the the Assembly’s responsibility to provide all the necessary information to make an informed decision to its constituents . As an Assembly member, I will make decisions to generate the best outcome for those we serve. This process is the best way for the Assembly to give ballot issues our fullest attention as directed by the voters.
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 fully support the mask mandate. Our community must band together to reduce the spread of the virus. If we see another rise in cases, we are failing our community. Since we are still in the high alert level we need to look at how our current mandate is being followed and how it is impacting the number of cases before making any changes.
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 support instituting a mandatory COVID testing policy for interstate and international travelers at our airport. I would also want travelers tested prior to boarding airplanes within 72 hours of their arrival to Sitka. Anything the City can do to encourage eligible Sitkans to get vaccinated is a step in the right direction. I know a few people who have received their vaccine because of the incentive of drawings for prizes. If it’s the little things that compel people to get the vaccine, I only see that as a benefit. It’s a small price to pay in comparison to prolonging the suffering in our community. We need to follow the advice of the CDC and the medical experts who know this virus best.
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?
Our citizens can’t tolerate more taxes or increases in the cost of electricity and other utilities. COVID has created too many hardships already with the loss of jobs, families moving out of Sitka because they cannot afford the high cost of living or worse, the loss of a loved one due to COVID. We need to diversify our revenue generating portfolio in ways that do not come at the cost of year-round citizens.
What’s your philosophy on school funding? Should we fund the Sitka School District to the maximum allowable by state law, or “the cap”?
I am committed to investing in our children’s education to the maximum extent available. The better education we provide now will result in incalculable returns in the future. Our children are suffering from enduring months of schooling compromised by COVID. The effects on our school children are tremendous and we need to do everything we can to bolster their education.
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 should support efforts to build up the necessary infrastructure to receive the number of visitors in the future. Our current capacity is not enough to serve the number of visitors we can expect in 2022. The Planning Commission is currently drafting a Tourism master plan, and I’m looking forward to seeing what comes out of that collaborative community process. Because of the number of businesses now closed due to COVID, we need to help new and existing business owners meet their needs for access to funding and address any barriers that may exist that prevent or hinder their growth. With years of experience in the tourism industry, I would be eager to support our community in responding to this opportunity. We also need to invest in the other pillars of our economy equitably, such as through developing a marine haulout.
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’m eager to see the recommendations of the experts on the Climate Action Task Force that come out of their joint meeting with the Assembly next week. On the other side of the equation I understand that there is federal infrastructure legislation that is going to lead to significant investments in Sitka, whether that is for improvements at the Science Center or for supporting our clean energy grid here. There will be opportunities to make electric vehicles, heat pumps, and those kinds of technologies more affordable, and when more people are using those technologies, not only will we have cleaner air but it will help stabilize our electrical rates. I see huge opportunities for us to learn from our local experts and also apply federal funding to benefit our community.
Describe one piece of legislation you would like to bring forward as an assembly member, and explain how you would fund it.
The City of Sitka could do more to actively promote affordable housing, whether that’s through changing zoning codes, supporting financing, or other incentives. As an assembly member, I would work with my fellow Assembly members, planning commissioners and city staff to identify the best approaches to addressing housing affordability. Our children will want to come back here if they know they can afford to build a life where they grew up. Sitka has a red-hot real estate market, it’s too hot for most to touch, and that’s not a good thing for our community. So if it turns out there is a need for financial incentives, that will need to be funded sustainably. It has to make housing more affordable, not be a burden on low-income families.