Filing for city and borough offices in Ketchikan opened on Monday. Here’s a look at what’s on the ballot and the candidates that have filed to run so far.
Perhaps the highest-profile position on this fall’s municipal ballot is Ketchikan Gateway Borough mayor. Incumbent Rodney Dial has filed to run for his second three-year term.
“I’m running again because I really love this community with all my heart. I want to see it succeed,” Dial said in a phone interview Tuesday.
Ketchikan’s borough mayor has little formal power. The mayor chairs Borough Assembly meetings but does not vote on borough ordinances or resolutions except when the seven-member body is tied.
The mayor is also able to veto measures passed by the assembly. Dial’s done that twice — he vetoed a nonbinding resolution asking the Alaska Legislature to protect LGBTQ civil rights in 2020, and earlier this year, Dial vetoed roughly $1,600 in funding for the Ketchikan Pride Alliance. The assembly overrode the vetoes on both occasions.
But beyond his formal duties, Dial says he’s been an effective advocate for the borough. He says his work helped spur federal investment on a revitalized National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration dock and office building. He says he’s also proud of the borough’s response to the pandemic, which relied on voluntary recommendations rather than mandates.
In a second term, Dial says he hopes to encourage economic development and leverage his state government connections to free up more land for housing.
“One of the things I really want to build upon is helping to diversify our economy as much as possible so that we’re not completely dependent upon one industry for survival,” he said. “I also want to really try to do what we can to keep housing as affordable as possible in this community.”
Ketchikan’s school district business manager, Katie Parrott, announced on social media that she plans to run for borough mayor as well. As of Wednesday afternoon, she had yet to file for the race. She said in a text message Wednesday that she was not available for an interview.
Housing is also a priority for Austin Otos, who has filed to run for his second term on the Borough Assembly.
“I kind of want to focus, refocus our efforts, what we have been doing on housing in particular,” he said by phone Tuesday. “Looking at some new larger subdivisions, to use some of the infrastructure money to build roads, and then increase your housing stock. We’re looking at Mud Bight right now — just increasing that subdivision and that service area to create some more housing,” Otos said by phone Tuesday.
He says he’s also proud of the programs the borough put in place during the pandemic to help keep local businesses afloat and ensure renters could afford to stay in their homes.
Otos is seeking one of two available three-year terms on the Borough Assembly. He’s the only one officially in the race so far.
Also running for a new term is Ketchikan City Council member Lallette Kistler. She’s the only candidate so far to file paperwork to run for the council, which has two available three-year seats and one open one-year seat. Kistler was appointed to the council last year to fill a vacancy after placing third in last October’s election.
With the city facing a budget crunch, Kistler says she has her eye on city revenue. She says she’d like to restructure the city’s sales tax on residential rent to favor low-income renters.
Renters currently pay city and borough sales taxes on the first $1,000 of their rent. So someone who pays $3,000 a month pays the same $65 in taxes as someone whose rent is $1,000.
“Instead of putting the tax break on the top of the rental insurance sales tax, put it on the bottom, so maybe the first $500 or something would be tax-free, and that would help out the people that are struggling,” she said by phone Tuesday.
Kistler pitches herself as a good listener who’s good at moderating conflicts. She says her wide range of expertise — from finance to construction to the arts — makes her a good representative for the community.
She’s seeking one of the three-year seats on the council.
Rounding out the municipal election slate in Ketchikan are two seats on the school board, both for full three-year terms. So far, Tom Heutte is the only candidate in the race. He’s been appointed to two partial terms on the board in prior years. He touts his experience on nonprofit boards — including, for full disclosure, KRBD’s board, which does not direct news coverage. Heutte says he has a knack for listening, organizing and making decisions.
“I enjoy the process. I enjoy rolling up my sleeves and working on topics that are really important for the functioning of the school district in our schools,” Heutte said in a phone call on Tuesday.