Ketchikan voters elected some new leaders Tuesday. The borough has a new mayor, while the city council remains much the same.
Rodney Dial will be the next mayor of the Ketchikan Gateway Borough. The retired State Trooper and former assemblyman says his first priority is getting the attention of policy makers in Juneau and Washington.
“I have quite a bit of experience working with the state legislature, so I’m really going to maximize that, and I’ve made some incredible progress on the federal level,” Dial said.
Dial defeated challengers Michelle O’Brien and Sidney Hartley by more than 300 votes.
Term-limits had prevented incumbent borough mayor David Landis from seeking re-election. But he’s not going away: he and political newcomer Austin Otos were elected to the borough assembly.
Landis says he’s got his eye on two main issues as he rejoins the assembly.
“Obviously, the tourist traffic and the impacts on the community, and also housing issues,” Landis said.
On the second point, he’ll likely find support from Otos.
“Yeah, as a young person I’d really like to focus on affordable housing,” Otos said.
Challenger Jeremy Bynum trailed both by about 650 votes.
Residents also voted overwhelmingly to extend the borough’s $2-per-pack tobacco tax.
In the City of Ketchikan, a proposed ban on “cannabis cafes” was defeated by more than 100 votes. That means local dispensaries will likely be able to apply for licenses to allow onsite consumption of marijuana products.
Ketchikan joins Juneau, Sitka, Anchorage and Fairbanks in keeping the door open. The state has yet to issue a permit for onsite consumption.
But don’t expect a Ketchikan cannabis cafe overnight. One of the most vocal proponents –local pot shop owner Mark Woodward — says his business still has a long way to go before it’d meet state and local requirements. But he says a permit could be in place in time for spring tourism.
“April 1 would be a goal of ours,” Woodward said.
City voters also approved $11.5 million in bonds to improve Ketchikan’s connectivity on the city-owned broadband network. The bonds will allow Ketchikan Public Utilities to lay undersea cable between Ketchikan and Prince Rupert, B.C. That’ll bypass the private line owned by GCI. KPU projects this cost savings will allow it to finance the infrastructure without raising rates.
KPU’s Telecommunications Manager Ed Cushing says the utility hopes to bring a final proposal to the city council by then end of the year.
“And then, best case, we build the actual undersea cable next summer — 2020 — and we would light up the cable and put it in service September of October of 2020,” Cushing said.
Voters also approved $5 million in repairs to the city’s main water lines.
And the make up of Ketchikan’s city council remains unchanged: incumbents Lew Williams and Judy Zenge fended off a challenge from novelty shop owner Spencer Strassburg in what was his fourth bid for the council.
Meanwhile on the school board, incumbents Bridget Mattson and Leslie Becker will return. And they’re being joined by family therapist Jordan Tabb ran uncontested for a full three-year term.
About a quarter of registered voters turned out for this year’s election.
The Canvass Board counted absentee and questioned ballots Wednesday. The city and borough is expected to certify the results Monday.
This post was updated at 5:10 p.m. October 2, 2019 to reflect finalized election results and add updated quotes from Ed Cushing and Mark Woodward