So far, four Ketchikan residents have filed to run for three open seats on the Borough Assembly. They are Sharli Arntzen, Paul Robbins, Jr., Jeremy Bynum and Aaron Vigilante. Bynum is the only incumbent in the race, running to keep his seat. The other seats are currently held by A.J. Pierce and Judith McQuerry. Pierce is unable to run due to term limits and McQuerry announced she is not running for reelection.
Bynum is the electric utilities manager for Ketchikan Public Utilities. He is completing his first term on the Assembly. Bynum says good things are happening with the Assembly and he would like to be there to further progress.
“Specifically dealing with our housing issue amongst other things for the community. And I’m just looking forward to continue doing some of that work right now.”
Bynum says in addition to housing, other important issues to him are the airport expansion and reliable funding for schools.
“We’ll continue working with our team there, the assembly team and staff, to ensure that we can create a stable funding environment.”
In 2022, Bynum challenged state Representative Dan Ortiz to represent House District 1 in the Alaska State Legislature. Ortiz has filed for reelection. Bynum says he hasn’t made a decision as to whether he’d challenge Ortiz again.
“But definitely I have a passion for that. I really enjoyed the process the last time running for House. I enjoyed the campaigning and meeting the folks in our community and hearing what they’re passionate about and what’s important to them. And I’m passionate about a lot of the same things. I could definitely see myself in the future there to try to represent the voice of our community in Juneau.”
Robbins, Jr., works as the public affairs and partnership staff officer for the Tongass National Forest. He’s currently serving on the Ketchikan School Board and his term ends this year. Robbins, Jr. says he enjoyed his time on the school board and wants to bring those skills to the Assembly.
“That knowledge and that experience, I feel, has prepared me to move up to some broader issues for the community. And as someone who lives in the borough and here in Ketchikan, I’d like to take everything I’ve learned and my ability to work with the diverse groups here in Ketchikan and apply that to the assembly.”
Robbins, Jr. says he doesn’t have an agenda and says local public servants shouldn’t set priorities until in office.
“And what I mean by that is I still am planning in the next few weeks, even as we’re running, to sit down with borough staff and each of the assembly members to hear from them what’s been going on. Nobody knows better than the staff that’s working on it, and the assembly members who’ve been discussing it for months, what the prominent issues are here in Ketchikan. And of course hear from the people as well.”
Robbins, Jr. says it’s then up to assembly members to make the best decision possible based on staff recommendations, data and public testimony.
Vigilante is new to the political scene. He is a project engineer for SECON, a highway paving company. Vigilante says he decided to run for Assembly because he wants to be more involved in the community.
“I would like to apply myself a little bit more in the community and I think this is a good way to help. And to learn more about our local politics I guess.”
Vigilante says tourism is vital to the community but infrastructure is suffering because of the influx of cruise ship passengers.
“So I think the need for addressing what our maximum number is before our infrastructure is at max or completely stretched too thin.”
Asked if there was anything else he would like to add, Vigilante said he wanted to clarify what he meant in an interview with a local paper where he said he wanted to try to avoid hot button issues.
“It’s not that I’m afraid to talk about hot topics, it’s just an initial interview that I didn’t want to try to delve too deeply into. It was just such a short interview.
As of noon Thursday, no additional candidates filed for office.
The filing deadline for both city and borough offices is 5 pm on Friday, August 25. Municipal elections are on October 3.
KRBD plans to speak with other candidates as the election season progresses.