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

Mayoral candidates differ on leadership style


September 21, 2017 | View PDF

Differences in leadership style and how to conduct civil discourse in the midst of divisiveness were two themes incumbent Mayor Mayor Jan Hill and challenger Joanie Wagner touched on during Monday’s candidate forum at the Chilkat Center.

Wagner went on the attack in her opening remarks, criticizing Hill for enabling divisiveness in Haines.

“The reputation of Haines has been damaged by divisiveness statewide, by divisiveness that has been tacitly supported by our current mayor,” Wagner said.

Wagner cited Hill’s comments during an assembly meeting last May when she described “people of Haines as hateful and mean.”

“We’re a small community and we deserve to be respected, supported and encouraged by our Mayor to pursue our highest goals,” Wagner said.

Hill said she decided to make those comments, when a recall effort and a controversial borough manager hire was underway, because some community members had asked her to speak her mind. She said people were being “hateful and vindictive” at the time. She said her comments were “from the heart,” although she might not have made the comments if she could have done things differently.

“I don’t believe for one minute that I was encouraging divisiveness,” Hill said. “I would have sat quietly and worked behind the scenes like I was doing but people want you to be out in the forefront and, again, if you ask me for my opinion you’re going to get it.”

Both Hill and Wagner are opposed to taxing alcohol and tobacco, taxes the borough assembly is discussing as an effort to increase revenues to help fill the borough’s $413,000 budget deficit.

Wagner said she was opposed to taxing marijuana, while Hill supports a tax in some form.

When the candidates were asked about addressing the budget deficit, Hill said she didn’t have a specific thing she’d suggest cutting, but that the borough needs to “get creative and find a better way to live within our means.”

Wagner also didn’t get specific, but said there are a lot of small things to do to help the environment and the borough’s bottom line such as installing LED lights.

When it comes to expanding police services borough-wide, both Wagner and Hill said residents outside the townsite should decide whether they want expanded police protection.

“I’m not willing to shove a service down the throats of the people that live out in the valley, but I hope and pray we don’t have a tragedy that makes us regret that. But if we aren’t providing those services that could happen,” Hill said.

Wagner said the borough could look into an “outside of the box” idea to provide police service outside the townsite.

“Perhaps we could look into what it would take to elect a sheriff in some of these areas as law enforcement,” Wagner said. “Just throwing it out there.”

A sheriff’s office does not exist in Alaska’s state constitution.

Hill cited her past experience serving as Mayor, along with positions on state and regional boards.

She serves on the Alaska Municipal League board of directors and is the incoming president of the Alaska Conference of Mayors. She’s also the incoming president for the Southeast Conference.

She said her greatest accomplishment as Mayor was organzing the Southeast Conference and Alaska Municpal League meetings to be scheduled in Haines.

Wagner described herself as a collaborator and cited her experience running successful businesses in Haines and Skagway. She also started First Friday in Haines.

Wagner was a founding member of Hospice of Haines and helped to start the assisted living program.

The Haines Chamber of Commerce has scheduled a final candidate forum on Sept. 26 at the Chilkat Bakery at noon.

The election is scheduled for Oct. 3 at the ANB/ANS Hall and Klehini Valley Fire Department.


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