After a surge of candidates entered municipal races in the last few days of the filing period, every race on the Ketchikan municipal ballot will be competitive this October.
There are seven seats up for election across Ketchikan’s City Council, Borough Assembly and Board of Education, plus the job of borough mayor. And there’s plenty of competition.
City Council three-year terms (two seats available)
There are now half a dozen candidates running for two three-year seats on the City Council.
One of the newcomers is Amy Williams, a nurse at Ketchikan’s Pioneer Home who also runs her own art business. She says she’s called Ketchikan home for the past six years and is hoping to spur economic activity as the cruise industry recovers from the pandemic.
“What’s motivated me to run has been just seeing the challenges that are facing local business owners moving forward, especially post-COVID,” Williams said in a phone interview. “Everything that they’re challenged with in terms of maintaining their businesses, their livelihoods, and trying to make downtown Ketchikan a more inviting area for the tourists.”
She says the city has, for the most part, done a pretty good job navigating the pandemic and the associated economic downturn. But she says the city needs to find a way to tackle homelessness.
She pitches herself as a trustworthy, independent voice without strong ties to any particular organization or point of view.
Jamie King says she’s lived in Ketchikan for most of her life, save for a stint in the Navy’s Construction Battalion and some time as an exchange student in Sweden. These days, she’s an administrative assistant for the Ketchikan borough transit department.
She says she thinks a seat on the City Council would be an interesting job and a way to serve the community. She says she doesn’t have her eye on any particular key issues, but she says she wants to help shape Ketchikan’s future.
“The future should look like a riot of ideas and things to do, and new businesses and opportunities — while really looking at what works for Ketchikan. “We, as a city, I think, are so personable and innovative, and I feel like not everybody gets to experience that even amongst our community.”
She says she’s relatively satisfied with the City Council’s recent work — she said she couldn’t name an issue she would have decided differently. She says she’s a hard worker who’s ready to serve.
Taxi driver Kevin Kristovich says he’s not satisfied with the council’s recent work. He says he opposes their recent decision to raise sales taxes during the summer to capitalize on visitor traffic, then cut them in the winter — he says he would prefer to place the tax burden more squarely on visitors instead.
And he says he’s looking for solutions to Ketchikan’s housing crisis — he suggested taxing vacant homes and apartments to encourage landlords to rent to locals.
He also says Ketchikan’s city government should not expand its downtown port. He says that with four downtown berths and two north of town, it already feels too crowded and congested when cruise ships are in town.
“As my father would have said, they’re trying to make a booming metropolis out of this little whistle stop town. And that’s exactly what happened,” he said.
Kristovich says he’s lived in Ketchikan for almost all his life, though he says he’s sometimes moved away during the winter months.
Kristovich, King and Williams join incumbents Lallette Kistler and Mark Flora, and newcomer Dion Booth in the race.
City Council one-year term (one available)
All three candidates running for the lone one-year term on the City Council joined the race in the last few days of the filing period.
Sport fishing guide Jack Finnegan says he’s lived Ketchikan for about a decade. He says he’s especially interested in addressing Ketchikan’s housing shortage. He says it’s clear there are no easy solutions, but he says he’d like to do something about the proliferation of short-term rental properties.
“I know it’s been a useful source of income for a lot of people. I know there’s a lot of attraction for people want to come to Ketchikan and visit. But I think there’s an adverse and unintended tradeoff if, in the pursuit of getting short term rentals going, we eliminate or restrict the number of rentals that are available to people who want to live here and make this place their home and contribute to this community,” Finnegan said.
Finnegan says he’s always open to hearing new and different points of view, even from people whose politics don’t align with his own. He says he’s a good listener and is willing to compromise to get things done.
Christopher Cumings is a teacher’s aide at Ketchikan Charter School. Like many other candidates, he says housing is a top issue that needs to be addressed. Cumings also points to mental health as a top issue and says the city should partner with other organizations to improve treatment in Ketchikan.
“I’ve experienced what it’s like to be in a mental health crisis and get sent out of town to try to get better from breaking down. Because we don’t have anything to offer people here — we can only help them for a couple of days, and then we’ve got to send them out,” he said. “We’re setting a really vulnerable population up for failure.”
He says he’s also interested in limiting the impact of tourism on residents.
Cumings pitches himself as an unconventional candidate, someone unlike most others on the council.
Dave Timmerman entered the race last week hoping to leverage his experience working for Ketchikan’s port and harbors department.
But Timmerman said he would end his campaign after KRBD published an investigation into his criminal history and other past behavior. That includes violating a restraining order connected to his relationship with an 18-year-old woman he had supervised the prior summer. Timmerman was 46 at the time.
“I’m withdrawing my name from City Council consideration. It has caused too much chaos and pain for some people and I am sorry for that,” Timmerman said Saturday on Facebook. “It was not my intent.”
As of Monday, Timmerman had sent an email telling the city clerk that he intended to withdraw, but he had not yet signed the necessary paperwork to officially end his campaign, according to the clerk. His name will remain on the ballot. He said Monday on Facebook that he was asking people not to vote for him.
School board three-year term (two available)
The field of school board candidates doubled in the last couple days of the filing period with two new entries into the race.
Ginger yeil atoowu McCormick
Ginger yeil atoowu McCormick says she’d like the school district to bolster its science, tech, engineering and math education in an effort to better prepare students for college.
“I’m running for the school board, because I’m very passionate about transition, whether it’s elementary school, to middle school to high school, but my main focus is in high school to higher education, whether it’s a trade school, or a university, even a community college,” she said in a phone interview.
She says she’d especially like the school district to implement a “Running Start” program where students can graduate with both their high school diploma and an associate’s degree.
McCormick is currently a community navigator with the Central Council of Tlingit and Haida Indian Tribes of Alaska, connecting tribal citizens with resources. She says she was born and raised in Ketchikan, just like her parents and grandparents.
Robb Arnold is a chief purser for the state ferry system who says he’d like to improve teacher retention and student graduation rates.
“They’re just begging for teachers and aides and all that kind of stuff, so I’m wondering what’s going on,” Arnold said. “And that’s the other thing — I think there’s a lot of politics in school now. And that’s one of my things is to keep politics out of the classroom and let the kids learn.”
He says that means he’s opposed to things like mask mandates and school closures. He says more needs to be done to understand why it’s difficult to recruit and retain teachers.
Arnold also says he’d like to expand Ketchikan’s vocational education to teach students how to work in trades like carpentry, plumbing and electrical work.
Arnold and McCormick join Melissa O’Bryan and Tom Heutte in the race for school board.
Local elections are Oct. 4.
KRBD plans to hold several forums with the candidates for municipal office in Ketchikan.
- Borough mayor candidates: Friday, September 9
- City Council candidates (3-year and 1-year): Tuesday, September 13
- Borough Assembly candidates: Thursday, September 15
- Board of Education candidates: Tuesday, September 20