Six people have filed to run for three open seats on the Ketchikan City Council as of Friday morning. The municipal election is October 3rd. The candidates running so far are Judy Zenge, Robb Arnold, incumbents Jack Finnegan, Abby Bradberry, and Riley Gass, and newcomer Brian Buchman.
Gass is completing his first term on the Council. He says he decided to run again to help keep Ketchikan a place where middle-class and lower-income people can afford to live.
“And I would like to work with other council members, members of the community, staff members to try to get a handle on costs that we can control. Obviously, first and foremost would be taxes and rates. To try to slow down or prevent increases in those areas as much as humanly possible.”
Along with keeping municipal taxes and rates in check, Gass says he’d like the city to look into ways to make it easier to develop affordable housing.
“If there’s city land, I know that’s one thing we did a couple of years ago, I think it was over 30 city lots that were owned by the city that went up for auction and they all sold. So that was a small thing in the right direction. But definitely housing is a top priority.”
Brian Buchman is new to politics. He says he decided to run because he wanted to be more involved in the community.
“And also it’s about discovering our people that live here’s dreams, aspirations, and how they want to see Ketchikan in a few years from now.”
Buchman also sees housing as a top priority. He says he’s been advocating with other community and business members on the issue for the past three years, and progress is being made. He says buildings are already there, they just need to be made available and renovated.
“My goal with it is a multi-story community building to focus on eviction and prevention and avoiding new homelessness. Secondarily working homeless people and seasonal workers having a place to live so that they can be at their best in the workforce and in our economy locally.
Buchman says regardless of the outcome of the election; he plans to continue to work with civic leaders and other community members to address homelessness.
Buchman is the publisher of the street newspaper “The Homeless Changed” which he distributes in Ketchikan, Juneau, Sitka, Anchorage, and Fairbanks.
Abby Bradberry did not respond to requests for an interview.
Currently, three Ketchikan residents have filed to run for two open seats on the Ketchikan School Board. They are Robb Arnold, Hillary Rifenburg, and Katherine Tatsuda. Outgoing board member Diane Gubatayao announced she is not seeking reelection. The other seat holder, Paul Robbins, Jr., is running for Borough Assembly.
Katherine Tatsuda says she recently left a full-time job at Tongass Federal Credit Union to pursue her own personal interest and goals. She says she was discussing class leadership and leadership skills with her daughter when she got an idea.
“A lightbulb went off in my head and made me think that I was ready and it was time for me to get back involved into the community and to serve on a larger level.”
Tatsuda says she debated whether to run for City Council or School Board, and decided school board would be a good fit. She has three children, one who graduated and two who are in high school.
“We’ve lived through the Ketchikan School District, then all the activities. Professionally I’ve worked with the school district in different capacities and I just thought I could be an asset on the school board. And work in collaboration with the other board members and the district and teachers and parents and students to do good.”
Tatsuda has been a consultant on business coaching, team building, and leadership training.
Rifenburg has not responded to requests for an interview.
As of 2:00 p.m. Friday, no additional candidates filed for office.
The filing deadline for Ketchikan city and borough offices is 5 p.m. on Friday, August 25. Municipal elections are on October 3.
KRBD plans to speak with other candidates as the election season progresses.
NOTE: KRBD currently does not have any full-time reporters. We will do our best to provide regular election updates as staff time allows.