Chilkat Valley News - Serving Haines and Klukwan, Alaska since 1966

Mayor, assembly candidates want to repair wounds


August 24, 2017

October’s municipal race heated up this week after a handful of residents declared their candidacy for Mayor and assembly just before Monday’s 5 p.m. deadline.

Artist and Skipping Stone Studios owner Joanie Wagner is challenging incumbent Jan Hill for a three-year term as Mayor.

As of last week only two candidates had filed for the three open assembly seats. But now six candidates are vying. Brenda Josephson, Michael Fullerton, Diana Lapham, Stephanie Scott, Andrew Gray and Sean Maidy have all declared their candidacy.

The borough assembly appointed Scott and Maidy after assembly members Mike Case and Margaret Friedenauer resigned amidst a controversial political climate this spring.

At the time of her appointment, Scott said she wouldn’t run during the election but has since changed her mind.

“I’m standing,” Scott said. “I don’t think I’m going to seriously campaign but I’ll be there on the ballot.”

Scott said she realized she wanted to “stand” when she was researching a topic for an assembly meeting.

“I realized how happy it made me to do that,” Scott said. “I really like the work and it’s not stressful or anything else. It never was. I’ve been on the assembly for many years and was Mayor. I always enjoyed it.”

Maidy is a newcomer to municipal politics. He said he never thought he’d run for office but feels obligated to make a difference in Haines because he loves the town. He said his recent stint as a borough assembly member has been positive.

“I’m loving it,” Maidy said. “I’m learning a lot. I think I, with the crazy amounts of research I like to do on each subject, can make a lot of change and bring a lot of in-depth information to the table.”

Maidy said he wants to see the borough invest in renewable energy infrastructure and a borough-run greenhouse to provide local produce.

Brenda Josephson serves on the planning commission and said she decided last week to run for assembly. She said she wants to be part of a team that helps the community.

Josephson, a comptroller for Southeast Roadbuilders, has 25 years of financial management experience. She has a Master’s degree in business administration and a specialization in strategic planning.

“My background, experience and education…are assets that can be an important part of the process to improve public policy and governance for the Haines Borough,” Josephson said. “Additionally, the State and our community are facing financially difficult times. We need to solve our current challenges with new approaches.”

Diana Lapham served on assembly in the past until last fall, when she was defeated by Heather Lende and Tom Morphet. Lapham did not return calls for comment.

Michael Fullerton serves on the borough’s public safety commission. He moved to Haines with his wife, deputy borough clerk Alekka Fullerton, during the summer of 2015. Fullerton said Haines is in decline and the divisive politics prevalent in the community won’t help the community grow.

“We need to start acting like a small town instead of a dysfunctional family,” Fullerton said. “We really have very similar interests, very similar goals. To assume that we’re at different ends of the spectrum is the root of a lot of our problems.”

Andrew Gray announced his plan to run for the borough assembly several months ago, when he sought appointment to an assembly vacancy.

Gray, a civil engineer at proHNS, said he wants to build stability within borough government and “détente the bitter and divisive infighting.”

Gray wants to see economic development pursued within the borough and more efficient meetings.

“I would avoid the tirades and the public soapboxing that make it feel so crazy and so ‘anything-can-happen’ at these meetings.’”

Joanie Wagner said she’s running for Mayor to set a new tone in a struggling political system.

“When there was no challenger in the mayoral race, I stepped in,” Wagner said. “I would like to help our community move forward in a spirit of inclusion and respect. I believe a few new players in the political mix can help heal some painful rifts in our community.”

Wagner has never served in office.

Jan Hill said she wants to heal the rift in the community.

“Our community went through a pretty rough year and I want to help repair things,” the incumbent Mayor said. “A lot of projects are in the works that I want to be a part of. I’m going to start putting my campaign shoes on.”

Hill has served as Mayor for three terms and on several state and local boards.

Three residents have filed for four open seats on the Haines Borough school board leaving one seat open for a write-in candidate.

school board incumbents Ann Marie Palmieri, Sara Chapell and Brian Clay are all running to retain their seats. Three three-year terms and one one-year term are open.


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