It’s a crowded race for two seats on Petersburg’s borough assembly this fall. Six people are running in the October 3rd election. Some are relatively new to local politics challenging two incumbents hoping to hold onto their seats. The challengers are making an issue of capital project spending by the municipal government.
70-year-old Bob Lynn is running for re-election and has served four years on the assembly. He’s retired from a 30-year career with the U.S. Forest Service. Lynn has lived in the area for 20 years, along with four years in the late 80s. He and his wife live in a remote home in Duncan Canal. He points to his past experience.
“I think that I have going on to almost 40 year’s experience working budgets and doing types of managerial things in public office and so I have the background to do that,” Lynn said. “I have the interest, I have the time and I’m willing to delve into the issues involved with that, with making some of those decisions and I feel very strong about, I think we’ve been very fiscally responsible in some of the past assembly and council have been very good at making some decisions that puts us on I think a fairly doggone good track and I’d like to see that continue and I think I can help do that.”
Lynn’s seat is up for a vote this year along with another seat that was held by Cindi Lagoudakis until she took over this summer as mayor.
Former city mayor Jeff Meucci was appointed to fill out that term and he’s running to keep that seat. The 62-year-old Meucci is a research diver with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game and the dive safety officer on the department’s vessel Kestral. He has lived here since 1982 and was mayor of the city of Petersburg in the late 1990s. He also was on the parks and recreation advisory board and the city council.
“Well I sat in for that interim seat that Cindi Lagoudakis moved out of when she became the mayor and it kinda got me interested,” Meucci explained why he’s running. “There’s a bunch of stuff that is going to be happening here in the near future in Petersburg I wanna be part of the conversation between the Scow Bay turnaround development and whatever’s going on up at the hospital. I think the financial future of the city’s going to be kindof challenging and I’m looking forward to kinda delving into that a little bit.” Meucci is a father of two and has volunteered as an EMT and also has refereed high school basketball games for decades.
The two incumbents have four challengers. 44-year-old Will Ware works a three days a week in Juneau running the transportation department of the Central Council Tlingit and Haida Indian Tribes of Alaska. Born and raised here, he has four kids ranging from 21 to 10 years old.
“As I’ve talked around and spoken with a number of people, folks have actually called and shared with me some of their interest, opinions, asked me what my opinions are once they heard I was running, I think the number one thing that really has come up over and over again, I heard this on the airplane when I was flying in yesterday, folks wanna see less spending,” Ware said. “And I’m not so certain that entails spending on things like labor or things like that. I don’t think anybody’s wants to see a level of service go down but I think specifically what keeps being brought up is some of the capital expenditures that we have and I think that from this point forward, if I was elected I would really focused on more infrastructure spending that is going to be bringing more revenue dollars back to Petersburg.”
To that end, Ware wants to pursue a marine industrial park at Scow Bay for businesses to offer boat services there and compete for work that’s currently done at Wrangell’s boat yard. He does have political experience at the state and national level. Ware chairs the National Congress of American Indians sub-committee on transportation and infrastructure and the Intertribal Transportation Association. He has also been appointed to state’s community and public transportation advisory council and the governor’s tribal advisory council. And he’s on Southeast Conference’s reform committee for the Alaska Marine Highway.
Another candidate, Richard Burke, 38, is a civil engineer with U.S. Forest Service. He has lived in Petersburg over seven years and has served on Petersburg’s planning commission and as a volunteer with the fire department. He has been active promoting a vote on allowing off-road vehicles on local streets this year. He’s lobbied the assembly on behalf of the planning commission to seek additional parking space at the airport.
“I kinda felt like the borough assembly doesn’t do a very good at listening to the public and particularly the ATV issue, the airport parking issue, it took two attempts in front of the assembly before they actually did anything and they still haven’t done anything,” Burke explained. “The Scow Bay thing with the Reid brothers property, they were wrong in that. The public was pretty clear in the election that we didn’t want it. They were pretty pro, for it. This fluoride thing is another example. These are things that the assembly can pretty easily just put it on the ballot. If they don’t wanna make a decision they can put it on the ballot and they haven’t been very helpful.” Burke wants to look for other ways to raise revenue for the borough instead of looking at a sales tax cap increase, which he says hurts businesses.
Brandi Marohl, 34, works as an electrician at Petersburg Fisheries. She was born and raised here, has three kids and has served on the board of the Viking Swim Club. She was appointed to a vacant school board seat last November and opted to run for the assembly instead of continuing on the school board. Marohl this summer signed on to an application to recall most of the current assembly. Ultimately that application was denied by the borough. However, she wants the assembly to be more fiscally responsible and focus more on economic growth.
“Well I think that we need to be taking in more of what the community is looking for as a whole,” Marohl said. “There’s a lot of people that have a select group that they listen to or they hear from. As a lifetime resident I actually have quite a bit of people that I know from all age groups. I am younger so I have a different perspective there. But I think we need to be listening to more of the community as a whole in making our decisions and really weighing out the pros and cons of each decision being made.” Marohl wants to see some of boat services work and fish processing work that has migrated to other communities return here.
58-year-old Ken Hamilton is the Petersburg terminal foreman for the Sitka-based shipping company Samson Tug and Barge. His brother John is a captain on the local police force. Ken has lived in Petersburg for six years and says he has no political experience. He thought voters should have a choice in this election.
“I am my father’s son, take it or leave it, like it or not,” he explained. “I am very much a less-is-more with regard to government. I see a town of 3000 and diminishing spending a lot of money on new buildings and I wonder. Does anybody think that the manna from Juneau is gonna continue unabated forever? The evidence suggests that it’s not.”
Hamilton was in the Coast Guard and later worked as a long-haul trucker based out of Skagit County Washington. He’s the flotilla commander of the local Coast Guard auxiliary. He was surprised to see the mayor and only three assembly members at a meeting this month and said if he’s elected he’ll be attending every one.
Voters will be choosing two of the six along with the next mayor in the October 3rd election. Early absentee voting starts September 13th at the borough clerk’s office.