2013 Municipal Election Forum

Skagway voters on Oct. 1 will elect a new mayor, two borough assembly members and one school board member. Candidate forum answers appear below, starting this year with the school board seat (the lone candidate was unable to make the deadline for the print edition), then moving on to the mayor and assembly races.

SCHOOL BOARD - one 3-year seat
Incumbent Darren Belisle is the only candidate on the ballot for the one 3-year seat up for election on Oct. 1.

Questions for School Board Candidates

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

2. How would you better inform the public to generate more interest from the community in extracurricular activities or events put on by the students of Skagway School?

3. We have had a small spike in enrollment this year. If this trend continues what programs would you like to see added or enhanced at the school?

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

AGE: 47
OCCUPATION: Operations Manager, AP&T Skagway
INTERESTS, HOBBIES: Family, Bowling, sometimes fishing.

 1.  I believe the experience I already have on the school board is the best quality.

2.  I believe we are heading in the right direction with this. We have put in a lot of time on how to achieve this and making great strides with Facebook and such.

3. We finally have a Voc Ed program up and running and I would like to see this continue. I would also like to get a history teacher back in the school.

4. Keep the Voc Ed going.
Keep improving communications with the public
Keep striving for excellence with our students.


Mayor of Skagway - Two-year term
Current Borough Assemblyman Mark Schaefer is the only candidate on the ballot to be the next mayor.

Questions for Mayoral Candidates

1. What special leadership qualities would you bring to the mayor's seat, and as the spokesperson for the municipality?

2. Many of the borough candidates are either employed by White Pass or have some connection to the tidelands lease. To date, most of the discussions about future leases with White Pass and/or AIDEA have occurred in executive session. Do you agree with this approach? Please explain to the public why they can trust you in these negotiations to make the right decisions for the community, ahead of the interests of your employer.

3. What can municipal government do to keep young families in town year-round?

4. Which capital projects on the borough horizon do you think are the most important?

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

AGE: 51
OCCUPATION:  Manager of Train Operations.
EDUCATION: Sacramento City College 2 years Aviation Maintenance Technology.
PUBLIC OFFICES HELD: First elected 2007 Skagway Municipal Assembly
INTERESTS, HOBBIES: Civic duty, snowmobiling, fishing.

1. Simply, I want to give back to the community which has served me since I have been here, by representing residents fairly and favorably while solving problems. My background as an elected official and company supervisor has taught me that the best leaders are usually humble servants, and I learned a valuable lesson from the voters of Skagway several years ago.

2. I don’t always agree with holding executive sessions but understand why they’re necessary. Our state statutes allow elected leaders, for the good of the municipality, to discuss in private, “matters, the immediate knowledge of which would clearly have an adverse effect upon the finances of the public entity” and by extension the community. Discussing critical issues in public, especially those involving personnel or legal matters, could work against the best interest of the people of Skagway. It’s important to remember that no decisions can be made in executive session; that action must be done in public.
Conflict of interest is an important concern, whether you work for a major employer in the community or depend on a big advertiser, a valued customer, or even a dear friend. The community comes first! Also, I believe my track record as a public servant has shown that I have worked hard for the people of Skagway.

3. We will continue to work on developing year-round employment diversity. This ongoing issue also affects our school enrollment. Citizens need good employment and favorable living conditions to stay here, and put their children in our school. It can be a difficult task, but it must always be the focus of our government.

4. We must resolve our Port Development issues. This massive undertaking will include everything from environmental cleanup of the ore basin to the enhancement of Ore Dock facility for both industrial and cruise operations. The State of Alaska is financially backing the redevelopment phase of this project.
I also support the Arts Pavilion which will include a levee for Seventh Pasture flood protection, Small Boat Harbor Phase II, Public Safety Building, Water Tank, the Main Street repaving approved by the voters, old Clinic demolition to allow room to for a Seniors Center and the expansion of the Rec Center.

5. My top three priorities are: Port Development! Port development! Port development!
Hopefully, this can solve our other top priorities of year-round employment and economic diversity, which in turn could help increase school enrollment and therefore the vitality of our community.


Borough Assembly - Two 3-year seats
Former Assemblyman Tim Cochran and three new candidates, Spencer Morgan, Tyler Rose and Duppy Ticarro, are running for two seats on the Skagway Borough Assembly

Questions for Borough Assembly Candidates

1. What special qualities would you bring to the assembly table?

2. Many of the borough candidates are either employed by White Pass or have some connection to the tidelands lease. To date, most of the discussions about future leases with White Pass and/or AIDEA have occurred in executive session. Do you agree with this approach? Please explain to the public why they can trust you in these negotiations to make the right decisions for the community, ahead of the interests of your employer.

3. What can municipal government do to keep young families in town year-round?

4. Which capital projects on the borough horizon do you think are the most important?

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


AGE: 52
OCCUPATION:  Plant Manager, Petro Marine Services
EDUCATION: H.S. Graduate, Vocational Technical School Graduate, Military NCO Academy, Cochise College.
YEARS IN SKAGWAY: Half my life.
PUBLIC OFFICES HELD: Assembly, Planning and Zoning, Ports and Harbors, Public Safety Building Committee.
INTERESTS, HOBBIES: Family, Running, and Research.

1. Having grown up here, I have a history in this community. Skagway is and always will be my hometown. I have prior experience in local government having served a three-year term on the assembly in the past (2009-2012) as well as a member of the Planning and Zoning Commission, and various committees. I have over thirty years of managerial and supervisory experience. I’m honest, I listen, I’m very interested in being involved in the community and I care about the future of Skagway.

2. I agree with this approach to a point because there are some matters in these discussions that are to be kept confidential by law. An executive session is a discussion of those matters behind closed doors for discretion but no actions can be made nor can a vote be cast in those sessions. Any action to come out of an executive session discussion has to be made in public and voted upon in a public forum. As far as the company that I work for, Petro Marine Services, I have no personal financial benefit that I can see coming from a decision I may be involved in on the assembly should I be elected. I am a salaried employee. If, by chance, there may be a perceived conflict of interest I would recuse myself from the matter. If there is a perceived conflict of interest with anyone else on the assembly I would call that to attention as well.

3. It’s real simple, we need more year round jobs. I think everyone would agree that we need to see our port developed to handle a diversity of operations. Not only the tourism in the summer but inbound and outbound freight operations all year. This would help create more year round jobs that our young families need to stay in Skagway. We might look into extending the season to accommodate the growing population of winter visitors for recreational activities such as skiing, snowboarding, and snow machining groups.

4. I think the most important projects are port development, public safety building, and infrastructure improvements. Those are list toppers from our comprehensive plan which is a document that the assembly is supposed to use as a guide to future planning. It is based on input from the community and that is what I will focus on and represent.

5. We need to focus on a decision as to exactly what we want to accomplish on our waterfront for port development, find common ground with White Pass and move forward. Housing is still a major issue in our community and needs to be a top priority. I would also like to see that we focus on more services and care available locally for our seniors.

AGE: 39
OCCUPATION:   Drywall Contractor/ White Pass Conductor
EDUCATION: 4yrs. Utah State University.
PUBLIC OFFICES HELD: 3 years Planning & Zoning.
INTERESTS, HOBBIES: Cycling, Fantasy football.

1. First and foremost my experience on the Planning and Zoning commission. Currently the Chairman of the commission. Second, I feel that I am very approachable and open minded to all situations.

2. First of all let me say that I do agree with the executive session approach. I believe that all future leases should be in the best interests of the people and Municipality of Skagway. Yes I am employed by White Pass, but I am also self-employed and when assembly members are elected they are done so by the voters. That is who they should represent not their employers.

3. The main thing that a municipality can do to keep young families in town is to work towards a year round economy. It is hard for young families to live off of 5 to 6 months of wages. Many of the families that live here now are lucky enough to have year round employment. Last year Skagway had one of the highest unemployment rates in the state during the winter and the lowest unemployment rate in the summer. Which is proof that more year round jobs are needed.

4. The main projects that I see on the horizon are the continuation of the Gateway project, the municipal public safety building. The Police and Fire depts. are in need of new facilities, and my understanding is that the cost of building this facility goes up around $500,000 per year that we wait to build.

5. Top 3 priorities: Year round economy, Skagway school, Affordable housing.

AGE: 36
OCCUPATION:  WP&YR Director of Safety & Labor Relations.
EDUCATION:  Bachelor of Arts in Political Science.
INTERESTS, HOBBIES: Sports, Writing, and Music.

1. I have had the opportunity to work in many differnet jobs/capacities in our community. I have also been fortunate enough to have studied and worked in other areas away from Skagway. This combination has given me a diverse outlook both internally and externally to our town. I grew up in family business, started my own sole proprietorship, and now work for the town's largest employer. These experiences and the communcations with people during those times have given me a set of skills to communicate, relate, and crystalize issues for the many diverse interests in this town. That communication and reasoning I feel are integral to the discussions and decision making necessary for an effective assembly member.

2. The tidelands lease negotiations have been a hot button issue, and particularly so in my candidacy for assembly, with me being a WP&YR employee. As for discussion in executive session, I do agree with it as a matter of form. To have productive negotiations sometimes it is necessary to use the elements of executive session for the overall benefit of both sides. That being said, as an assembly member one has ultimate responsibility in that capacity, to the citizens of the community and not to an employer. We all wear many hats and it would be unfortunate to be pidgeon holed simply because of where a person is employed. Though I am employed by White Pass it does not and will not preclude me from serving my community in the best fashion I see fit.

3. I see this as a three aspect issue, with those parts being fostering economic opportunities within the community on a year round basis, facilitating an available housing market and having greater recreational venues over the winter months. The municipality can play a critical role in all of these issues. By continuing to support our tourist economy coupled with attempts to diversify, such as the Gateway Project, the municipality can aid in the creation of the class of jobs which can encourage young families to invest here. That being said, the difficulty of finding available, affordable housing is an obvious impediment. In any seasonal area, housing becomes inflated due to the infux of seasonal residents. To offset that trend the municipality can move to make more land available for home construction, and look for ways to incentivize projects that can meet the community's housing needs. Finally, there is the issue of "value added" in living in any location. Reasonable efforts that the municipality can support for increasing the arts, recreation, and generally quality of life aspects in our community can go a long way towards enticing those who could go south due to the perceived lack of opportunity in those areas here. Though this will never in the near future be a "big city" collectively we can both celebrate the small town benefits while improving on the deficits.

4. The capital projects at the forefront of my mind are the continuing developments in the Harbor Master Plan, which includes the Gateway Project, the Public Safety Building and the re-paving of Main Street.

5. It is difficult to take all of the issues facing our community and pare them to three, but at this time the three priorities I see for the borough are sustaining our tourist industry while responsibly diversifying our economy, fully funding and supporting our school and working towards the completion of the Gateway Project.

AGE: 38
OCCUPATION:  Ferry Terminal Assistant.
EDUCATION:  HS Diploma and College.
INTERESTS, HOBBIES: Political Science, Cooking, and Coaching.

1. I am a proud Skagway year-round resident of 17 years, I am a parent of a young child, a dedicated high school coach of 6 years, I have been successfully employed in the multi-million dollar hospitality business for 14 years and 2 years in the public service sectors. Most importantly I am an actively concerned citizen. When I am elected to the Skagway Assembly I will represent the many voices of the community. I am the voice committed to excellence in education. I am the voice for economic stimulus and affordable housing. I am the voice that will be committed to municipality’s financial accountability and oversight.

2. I am an employee of the State of Alaska’s Department of Transportation, as a Ferry Terminal Assistant. The ferry dock and its employees are not tied into the White Pass waterfront lease. Now that the White Pass lease needs to be renegotiated, I believe that the discussion needs to be made in public so that the community can see that it’s a transparent process. It’s a major decision that affects the entire economic sustainability of this community. As an Assembly Member I am committed to reassuring that the decision on the lease will be made in partnership with all stakeholders.

3. I am one of the young families that live in Skagway year-round, and it was essential for us to have affordable housing. As an elected Assembly member, I will help create an enthusiastic and motivated committee to develop ideas on how we can identify and address the housing issue in Skagway. The community’s needs need to be addressed in a timely manner so that it’s a true partnership between community and government. I also believe that the Skagway municipality could create an incentive for year round businesses and individuals who build affordable multi-unit housing. This fair and reasonable incentive could come either in the form of a tax break or even a “land trust”, similar to what Juneau offers.

4. There are currently two capital projects that are important to the community. The Port of Skagway Gateway Project is committed to the advancement of our existing Ore terminal. This is currently being funded with assistance from the state, the city, and bonds approved by the voters.
Our community needs a Public Safety building that can cohesively house both departments with our increasing and sustained tourist season. The Police and Fire department’s facilities are outdated and are not properly equipped to effectively handle major disasters and emergencies.

5. As a very concerned citizen, and if elected to serve on the Skagway Assembly, I am committed to:
1. Excellence in education
2. Economic stimulus and affordable housing,
3. Municipality oversight including financial responsibility with accountability.


VOTE OCT. 1: Polls open at Skagway City Hall from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Absentee voting available weekdays through Sept. 30 at 5 p.m. at borough offices.