2011 Municipal Election Forum

Skagway voters on Oct. 4 will elect a new mayor, two borough assembly members and two school board members. Candidate forum answers appear below, starting with the mayoral race.

Questions for Mayor/Assembly Candidates

1. (Mayor) What special leadership qualities would you bring to the mayor’s seat and as the spokesperson for the municipality? (Assembly) What special qualities would you bring to the assembly table?

2. School funding has been an emotional issue before the community the past few years as the school board wrestles with low enrollment and the borough assembly wrestles with requests from the district for more municipal funding to preserve programs. How will you structure this debate when it comes before the assembly?

3. For several months, the municipality has been negotiating with White Pass, mostly behind closed doors, on the principles of a new tidelands lease agreement that would give Skagway site control over the ore terminal, dock and subleases, leaving White Pass with just the Broadway Dock and continued management of cruise operations. When you are sitting at the table, what will go through your mind about what the community should be gaining from these important talks? Also, please explain your vision of port development on the Skagway waterfront.

4. Recently, the Skagway Borough Assembly has been presented with several issues regarding permitting, such as conditional use permits for establishments that sell alcohol, permitting for trailers and RVs on private property, and the enforcement of permitting codes by the Historic District Commission. What is your opinion on how involved the assembly should be in these matters and do you think they are being handled adequately?

5. Please state your top 3 priorities for the borough, or any other issues that need attention.

MAYOR OF SKAGWAY - two-year term
Former mayor Stan Selmer is the only candidate on the ballot to be the next mayor.

Age: 63.
Occupation: Retired, and energy consulting.
Education: High school, some college, business college, post grad courses, life.
Years in Skagway: Over 50.
Public offices held: City Councilmember, Mayor.
Interests, hobbies: (list 3 only): Fishing with my grandchildren, music, and golf.

1. My leadership qualities come from having had a sense of community for over 50 years. And having a passion for this town gives me the confidence to be the spokesperson for the municipality. In addition, having served as the Mayor of Skagway for 3 terms, 20 years ago, and having been the chairman of a utility board for many years has taught me how to bring people together to resolve issues.

2. There is much for me to learn about school funding and the accountability that goes with running a school with federal, state, and local funding. However, if people in the community want the Municipality of Skagway to provide more local funding for the school than the Assembly originally approved, it would be my position to honor that request. Skagway has the money….what we don’t have is children in school (only 65 students K-12 on Sept 14, 2011)……..but because we have so few in school does that mean that we owe those 65 less of an education?– I don’t think so.

3. At the assembly meeting on September 15, 2011 there was a lot of serious debate about gaining site control of the Ore Dock side of the borough uplands. A Letter of Intent was on the agenda and the municipality’s attorney was in attendance. The discussion surrounding the letter finally led to approval of the document. After all was said and done it was sort of surprising to hear from some at the table that this was a futile effort. It was further surprising to not see officials from White Pass/ClubLink in attendance. Much of the prior dialog amongst/between the parties was held in executive session so it is not possible for me or anyone else to know what’s been tried, what’s worked and what hasn’t. Maybe it’s time to start the process again and get all the players into the same room and air all concerns in a public forum. As mayor it will be my job to see that Skagway’s likely last, best chance of becoming a year-round community again isn’t lost.
My vision of port development on the Skagway waterfront starts with trying to get the Assembly to hire a professional who can help lead the Municipality and those serving on our Harbor committee and Port Commission through a process that gets us where we need to be.

4. The Skagway Municipal Code authorizes and empowers the Planning and Zoning and the Historic District Commissions to function in a stand-alone manner separate from the assembly. Contentious issues are not a reason to change the way we do things. A review of individual code sections or even an evaluation of the Commissions is something the Assembly can and probably should do on occasion.

5. Each as important as the other: (a) Work with the cruise ship industry to plan for the eventual elimination of or lessening of cruise ship smoke in the valley; (b) Skagway is at a crossroads again and we need to revitalize year-round opportunity in Skagway NOW; (c) Revitalizing year-round opportunity should put kids in school. However, parents are taking their kids to other towns to go to school and parents are also home schooling their children. The school board and the assembly need to figure out what, if anything can be done to change that.

BOROUGH ASSEMBLY - two 3-year seats
Incumbents Dan Henry and Mark Schaefer are running on the ballot for two 3-year assembly seats.

Age: 56
Occupation: Skagway Fish Co. co-owner
Education: Tutored in agriculture and economics at Continental Grain Co. on Chicago Board Of Trade, certified by Commodity Futures Trading Commission and approved for CBOT membership as floor broker in August 1978.
Years in Skagway: 22.
Public offices held: City Council / Assembly 14 years.
Interests, hobbies: (list 3 only): Trading precious metals futures market and securities, hitting a little white ball with a crooked stick.

1. Knowledge and experience of the past 14-plus years on assembly and various committees such as the original Rec. Center committee, giving me a clear understanding that Skagway wants to continue to make progress in areas such as quality of life, diversifying the economy and improving on our current economy.

2. As a city official I believe every effort must be made to enhance and develop the highest level of education possible for the Skagway students, and for those who don’t possess the capacity to understand that, as a main focus for any responsible community….. well, we should feel very sad for them…what a narrow existence. It should be the main focus (to educate your community’s youth), if we can afford it, do it! If we can’t afford it, find a way and get it done, their future is TODAY! I would never want the possibility of this to be overheard in any Skagway café: “Hey boys, looks like we got ourselves a reader.” (courtesy of Bill Hicks, circa 1990s).

3. Skagway should enjoy a larger revenue stream from any new lease agreement, along with a more inter-active relationship with the leaseholder. Any other points are predicated upon “who and for how long,” as far as a new lease is concerned in the area of development. WP&YR, I’m sure, would like to work out an agreement. All parties involved must be flexible if we are going to expand, diversify and develop the Port of Skagway.

4. Be more definitive about what HDC and P&Z’s roles are, review code, make necessary change and have level, fair enforcement.

5. 1. Complete small boat harbor. 2. Develop ore terminal. 3. To continue to improve the revenue options for the MOS so we can afford what we need for tomorrow.

Age: 49
Occupation: Manager with WP&YR
Education: 2 years college.
Years in Skagway: 33.
Public offices held: Skagway Municipal Assembly.
Interests, hobbies: (list 3 only): Family, snowmobiling, fishing/hunting,

1. Like others the willingness to serve the community and spend the necessary time needed to do the Municipality of Skagway business.

2. I believe the Skagway school will continue to be funded adequately to provide a great education for the students here, despite the erratic and low student enrollment. Skagway continues to turn out some of the best students in the state.

3. The community should be gaining a diversified industry, enhancing tourism with industrial port operation with the goal of a more year-round economy and positive business climate to provide employment within the community. A more seasonally stable economy may ultimately, positively affect things like small winter population and low school enrollment.

4. All of us deserve equal protection under the law; we should strive to be consistent and fair in the application of municipal code. I believe the assembly will be responsive to these concerns and determine solutions that will fit the community needs.

5. Right now priorities are, continue to work on port development, which could include small boat harbor renovation, continue on with the Main Street repaving project, and further planning on a public safety building. I will keep in mind doing these projects in a fiscally responsible manner.

SCHOOL BOARD -two 3-year seats
Andrew Miller is the only candidate on the ballot for one of two 3-year seats on the School Board;
Prospective write-in candidates have until Sept. 30 to file their APOC paperwork at City Hall. As of this issue’s deadline, none had filed. If a second school board seat is not filled during the election, then the board will appoint a member for a one-year term until the next election.

Questions for School Board Candidates

1. What special qualities would you bring to the school board?

2. Enrollment, enrollment, enrollment. We hear all the time about the need for more, but what more can the school district do to keep families and their school-age children here, or draw more families to Skagway?

3. When the time comes to make difficult budget decisions, what programs do you care the most about when there is a choice to cut, keep or enhance?

4. Please state your top 3 priorities for the district, or any other issues

Age: 33
Occupation: Broadway Video-RadioShack Manager.
Education: Some college.
Years in Skagway: 9 year-round, 13 total with seasonal.
Public offices held: Currently sit on the CVB and the Clinic Board.
Interests, hobbies: (list 3 only): Fishing, history, dabbling in technology.

1. Since moving here year-round, I have been involved with the school in some way, shape, or form. Working as a substitute, employed in the maintenance department, and as a contractor, over the past 9 years and now as a parent of two school age children, has given me a chance to be involved and to see the many different aspects of the school.

2. I believe it is going to take the effort and support of the entire community to turn the current trend around. One of the key focuses needs to be on maintaining and creating more year-round employment. Regarding this matter, I have spoken with the Chamber of Commerce on implementing a program to focus on supporting and building a stronger local economy.

3. Priority has to go to the core programs that are going to help our children excel in college. Beyond that, if budget allows, I would like to see a greater focus on AP and college level courses.

4. First- We need to maintain the programs that have brought Skagway the high academic achievements that we currently enjoy
Second- We need to make available to our kids, more options and the tools to get a head start on college and their futures.
Third- Make enrollment a community effort, searching out all options, working within all organizations, and keeping enrollment as a year-round focus in our community, not just when the budget rolls around.

VOTE OCT. 4: Polls open at Skagway City Hall from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Absentee voting available weekdays through Oct. 3 at 5 p.m. at borough offices.