By KATIE EMMETS
For the first time since he was appointed in 2009, Dennis Egan will have a Republican candidate running against him in the November election.
“I’m running because Dennis needed an opponent,” Tom Williams said in a recent visit to Skagway. “People need a choice.”
Williams is a resident of Juneau, has lived in Alaska for 37 years, and is passionate about giving Alaskans options when it comes to their elected officials.
Just as there should be no unguarded layups in the game of basketball, Williams said he doesn’t believe a politician should run in an election unopposed.
In 2009, Egan was appointed by then-governor Sarah Palin and ran unopposed in a 2010 election after state redistricting.
Though Williams said Egan was a reasonable choice then, he thinks there are better options out there.
“Where’s Dennis’ opponent in 2014?” he asked. “That’s me.”
Though his opinions generally conflict with Egan’s, one thing Williams doesn’t disagree with Egan on is a Juneau Access Road — a road that will connect the Upper Lynn Canal with Juneau via a road and shuttle ferries.
“If we had a road I would have been here last night in time for dinner,” Williams joked.
A road, he said, is necessary for Skagway residents to travel to medical appointments and do big shopping trips.
Williams said a critical role of government is to provide good transportation for its citizens, and in terms of economy, commerce and cost of maintenance, a road makes sense.
“This doesn’t mean I don’t like ferries,” he said. “Because I do.”
Williams said ferries are necessary for Alaska in places where roads cannot be constructed, but added that roads cost less in maintenance and operating costs in the long run.
Along with maximizing available roads, Williams is also for maximizing economic production in terms of oil.
While in Skagway, Williams urged his audience of about ten people to cast a no vote on Ballot Measure No. 1 in the August 19 primary election. The measure was placed on the ballot as a veto referendum to repeal Senate Bill 21, which grants tax breaks to oil companies.
Williams said the tax break is the best deal the Legislature could get, and the bill has already made oil production more attractive to companies.
“The oil doesn’t do any good when it’s sitting in the ground,” he said, adding that taxes from oil production fund schools, roads and ferries.
Williams describes himself as an “unpolitician politician.”
“I will not tell you what you want to hear; I will tell you my opinions,’ he said. “That might not do me well with certain sections, but they know I’m true to my word.”
Williams said politicians must have a broader sense of what is happening in their state and act accordingly.
“I can’t promise one group ‘I’m going to take care of you,’ when it will adversely affect the whole state,” he said.
With his background in both public and private sector operations, Williams says he has a good, balanced way of looking at things and understands the challenges of government.
At the state level, Williams worked for the Department of Revenue as the Permanent Fund Dividend director and also as a paid staff member with the Senate Finance Committee. Most recently, he has been the chief financial officer of two private aviation companies in Juneau. Williams is also a small business owner.
Overall, Williams said, he could bring a lot to the table if elected.
“My motto isn’t ‘Tom for Progress in Alaska’, or ‘Tom for Wonderfulness’,” he said. “I just think I’m your best choice.”