Oct. 3 and the municipal elections are fast-approaching, and despite an initially-sparse ballot, Skagway residents now have a number of options when they arrive at the voting booth on election day. The Skagway News contacted each of the candidates for the mayoral position, two Borough Assembly seats and two Skagway School Board seats with a number of questions pertaining to themselves, their experience and goals.

Candidate responses are listed in alphabetical order by last name. Incumbents are marked with a *.

MAYOR

Monica Carlson

Q – What are your top priorities, should you be elected?

A – Skagway is a blessed community. We have a robust tourism economy and a bright future of industrial port growth. In order to benefit, we as a community must own our future.  We must control our waterfront. We will have a clean Ore Terminal Basin. Our municipality’s financial wellbeing is at risk as our income equals our expenses. Citizens of all generations are encouraged to participate in our democracy.
The next five years of transition will dictate our future. When the White Pass lease comes to an end in 2023, we need to be ready to take on the challenge for our children. Now is the time.

As a community we need to secure our financial future and not be beholden to a major corporation or venture capitalist group. We must own our waterfront.

Contamination of the Ore Terminal Basin must be remediated prior to end of the 1968 White Pass lease. We should accept nothing less.

The municipality may have millions in reserves, but we can longer bond projects as we are the second most indebted community in Alaska. The state is leaning towards implementing an income tax to help their budget deficit. We must be diligent with our budget so we do not push the struggling members of our community away. We have challenges of finding new revenues and making the sacrifices for all our citizens. I invite generations of Skagwegians to participate in their government. We cannot do it alone! Let’s own our future!

Q – What are your qualifications (or relevant experience) for taking this leadership position?

A – I was raised in a family of community volunteers. Arriving early in 1993, I became involved in Little Dippers Daycare and served on their board for multiple years. I served on the Historic District Commission for five years. I was appointed to an open City Council seat and elected to the same seat the following year. This spring, I applied to fill a vacant seat on the Borough Assembly. I was appointed by the current assembly, and will serve until October 5, 2017.

Q – What is your favorite way to spend free time in Skagway?

A – There is nothing better than to take long, quiet walks in Skagway. I always look forward to the fall when the berries ripen. I spend countless hours harvesting and making jams and catsups. I enjoy reading my Saturday edition of The Wall Street Journal with tea in hand and cooking with friends and family.


Mark P. Schaefer *

Q – What are your top priorities, should you be elected?

A – My top priorities are to keep Skagway the great place it is to live and work, that’s why we live here, we have an excellent community, with great people and a healthy environment and with a good economy.

We should work hard to protect our quality of life, work hard to improve economic diversity and do no harm to our great community. I want to work diligently with the assembly to arrive at fair and balanced decisions for the people of Skagway. There is a lot of work to do.

Q – What are your qualifications (or relevant experience) for taking this leadership position?

A – I have gained valuable institutional knowledge in my years as mayor and assemblyman and the various volunteer organizations I have served, which is useful in achieving the priorities above.

Q – What is your favorite way to spend free time in Skagway?

A – I spend my free time with my family and friends outside of civic duty and work. Spending my free time with others, especially the younger generations, reinforces my priorities mentioned above: ensuring Skagway remains a great place to live and work, with a safe and healthy environment and economy for everyone, including future generations. It is a great honor to serve the community.

BOROUGH ASSEMBLY

David Brena

Q – What are your top priorities, should you be elected?

A – Facilitating the Ore Terminal Basin cleanup. The Borough Assembly has been working on this problem for 30 years and the primary responsible party has not been responsive. White Pass has said that they would not allow the Municipality access to the contaminated site or access to construct the new floating dock unless the municipality agreed to a new lease extension. The municipality stated that White Pass is not in breach of contract for their participation. I disagree with that assessment, and will aggressively pursue a remedy.

Secondly, constructing a dock that is capable of docking the new larger cruise ships.

This is necessary to retain our position in the tourism industry. I favor taking control of our waterfront and not leasing to any entity. Since the 1968 lease, tourism has become the primary industry in Skagway. The current lease contains no provisions to allow the municipality to participate in this windfall. We need a new perspective on the assembly and we should control our own waterfront.

Finally, White Pass may be for sale and one potential buyer is a cruise line. This could be detrimental to many in Skagway, including tour operators, tour sales agencies, building owners, the community in general and even to other cruise lines who may be relegated to secondary berthing.

What is the definition of insanity? Doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result. We need a fresh perspective and we need expediency.

Q – What are your qualifications (or relevant experience) for taking this leadership position?

A – 1. My family has been in Skagway since the 1940s

2. I have an extensive working knowledge of the issues in Skagway.

3. I have an education in real estate and finance, including; a BSBA in Real Estate and Construction Management and a MBA in Finance. I also have 30 years experience in real estate lease negotiations.

4. I am a retired MAI appraiser (the equivalent of a Ph.D. in Real Estate Valuation).

5. I worked for White Pass in a number of positions and retired from the White Pass in 2001 as the second most senior Engineer.

6. I was elected as Chairman of Enginemen for the United Transportation Union and successfully negotiated three contracts with White Pass.

7. Since I returned to Skagway, I have no affiliation with White Pass and am not obligated to any entity. You can be assured that I will work only for the citizens.

Q – What is your favorite way to spend free time in Skagway?

A – I enjoy boating, hiking, and playing pool at the Eagles.


Philip Clark

Q – What are your top priorities, should you be elected?

A – 1. In the event that negotiations regarding the memorandum of understanding/lease with White Pass are ongoing, I would seek to finalize the talks in order to get a potential agreement to the polls for a vote by the people.

2. I would seek to have the municipality identify in the long term what it is hoping to gain from expanding its port size – beyond increased visitor numbers – and how it plans to follow through with those plans, both in the case that a new lease is adopted with White Pass and in the case that no new lease is adopted. Specific issues related to this: services (EMS, clinic, library, waste management, etc.), infrastructure (both private and public – road/sidewalk/boardwalk conditions, sewer, water, telephone and electric services, etc.), housing shortages, air quality issues, auto and pedestrian congestion, code and law enforcement and funding sources for all of this.

Much of this comes under the category of quality of life issues for those residents who are here to live, not exclusively or primarily here to make money.

3. Move to facilitate greater opportunities to develop long-term housing opportunities that are both affordable for the normal person and that are not governed by a necessity to pack the town with high-density housing.

Q – What are your qualifications (or relevant experience) for taking this leadership position?

A — I have no political or policy-making experience. I do, however, have a vested interest in making Skagway a safe, prosperous and pleasant community for my family and the families of all my neighbors in the borough.

Q – What is your favorite way to spend free time in Skagway?

A – My preferred free time activities in Skagway used to be running and hiking the trails and woods hereabout, and working in my shop.  Now that I have children, my “free” time is spent primarily with my family, warding off “spider” and “lizard” and “tiger” sneak attacks, playing with Legos (when I’m lucky) and constructing and repairing couch cushion forts.

 

Roger W. Griffin

Q – What are your top priorities, should you be elected?

A – Build a viable and sustainable community by:

1. Establishing an independent port authority. Municipal ownership of the waterfront is a needed source of revenue for capital projects.

2. Cleaning up lead and mercury contamination in the Ore Dock Basin. White Pass made the mess – they need to clean it up.

3. The municipality’s credit card is maxed out – no new capital projects until a new source of revenue to pay for them has been established and/or existing debt has been paid down.

4. Being a voice for ethics and accountability in Skagway’s elected government.

Q – What are your qualifications (or relevant experience) for taking this leadership position?

A — Held executive and senior technical positions in the federal government, and in the mining industry. Participated in the negotiation of land settlement agreements and land exchanges. Conversant in the challenges associated with the remediation of contaminated sites, such as the ore dock basin.

We must control our resources in order to have the quality of life we want. Our waterfront is our only marketable resource – we can’t give it away to White Pass. I am a strong advocate for self-determination and democracy. Please get involved and vote. We have more influence on local government than we will ever have on Washington. Vote on October 3!

Q – What is your favorite way to spend free time in Skagway?

A — Cruising on our boat throughout the Pacific Northwest; reading, mostly non-fiction and history and drinking coffee in the morning with my lovely wife, Helene. I’m not much for fishing – I concluded some time ago that most of the fish I caught died from either embarrassment or laughter. I have a motorcycle, which I greatly enjoy – it’s the next best thing to flying (something done in years past).

 

Dan Henry

Q – What are your top priorities, should you be elected?

A – I feel the need, at the moment, rests with a comprehensive overview of what upcoming projects are “want” or “need” based.

Next step would then be to review our budget. The municipality, at present, is in a sound financial position. I feel it incumbent on me, at this time, to make two important points. Even though it was a situation that was totally and utterly personal, I have at this point dealt with my tax issues, 100 percent current with all filings and working on the revenue side to be totally compliant. That is the last I will speak about an issue that is totally personal; I will not dignify any questions on that matter.

Second, I was “directly responsible for,” as finance chairman, restructuring our sales tax code and reallocating the city’s reserves into a better interest-bearing position. So, plain and simple, I am directly responsible for adding over $10 million to the city coffers.

Q – What are your qualifications (or relevant experience) for taking this leadership position?

A – From 1990-1997, community involvement was as follows: helping Mitch Snyder coach Little League, restarted the Solstice event, E.R. at the Elks, initiated the Veterans Dinner and Flag Day Ceremony. Helped John O’Daniel and Rodney Fairbanks and others put on countless burger feeds, initiated the booster club with the help of Snyder, Karen Frizzell and my beautiful wife and put on countless fundraisers for folks that needed one. From 1998-2017, ran for and won a seat on the City Council (now assembly), served on over seven committees, broadcast the games back home to Skagway, there are more to add, but…well, you asked. Former member of the Chicago Board of Trade (CFTC 1978).

Q – What is your favorite way to spend free time in Skagway?

A – My favorite thing to do in my free time is ponder why do people who have never given of themselves only come to an assembly meeting once in a blue moon, or run for office.

An example would be filling peoples’ heads with inaccurate information about the White Pass lease. There has never been, not now nor will there ever be, a negotiating team. The MOS would be grossly irresponsible to give any “team,” let alone one individual, the control or power to make decisions involving the White Pass lease.

The way we got to where we are was simply the entire assembly voting 6-0. The one thing the “team” did was carry the assembly-approved message to the White Pass representatives. They did not, and could not, and will not ever independently negotiate.

To those of you write-ins, what have you done for Skagway?

 

Dewey McCracken

Q – What are your top priorities, should you be elected?

A – My priority if elected is to move forward with plans to improve the harbor to meet the changing needs of the primary customers. What those plans will be is dependent on the outcome of current talks with White Pass.

Q – What are your qualifications (or relevant experience) for taking this leadership position?

A – I have no political experience, just 80-plus years of life experience, which includes working on staffs in the military, working for the IRS and the United States Postal Service.

Q – What is your favorite way to spend free time in Skagway?

A – Enjoying retirement (read golden-years).

 

SCHOOL BOARD

Cara Cosgrove *

Q – What are your top priorities, should you be elected?

A – 1. Inclusion: Structure classroom volunteer programs, further develop an engaging website and model inclusive behavior. Everyone is welcomed and integral to this educational program.

2. Transparency: Recorded district meetings, posted to the SSD website.

3. We’re #1… in the state! Well, I’d like to change our yardstick; set our sights on the nation and students will rise to the challenge. Annual summaries of SAT, ACT, AP and MAP scores should be publicized. Remember that Alaska’s education system consistently ranks low in the nation; currently 43rd by US News (www.usnews.com/news/best-states/rankings/education/prek-12).

4. Implement engineering and computer science in-house instruction.

5. Have fun.

Q – What are your qualifications (or relevant experience) for taking this leadership position?

A – Currently vice president, I’ve served on the school board for two terms (six years).  I’ve been inspired at annual boardsmanship conferences and legislative fly-ins and have attended job fairs soliciting teacher applicants. The dynamics of the current board are cohesive and forward-thinking.

Between the years of 1992 and 2016, I advocated within the classrooms for my three children. Each have now grown to be fiercely independent, caring and capable people who I could not be more proud of. Lastly, having owned Heart of Broadway, then Kirmse’s gallery from 2001 through 2016, has honed applicable decision-making, communication and leadership skills.

Q – What is your favorite way to spend free time in Skagway?

A – Without question, an all-day horse ride with my daughter or a friend is my current passion, and the physical workout of mucking the paddock and stalls or moving hay bales always brings a smile.

My mind tends to obsess on work and school board, but when I’m riding it’s completely free in the present moment. In the winter I find joy crashing the senior coffee clutch at Bites on Broadway.

I love baking pies, or sweet treats of any kind and connecting with friends at potlucks or while taking long walks as we soak in the Dyea Road vistas.

 

Chezare Doxey Leipold

Q – What are your top priorities, should you be elected?

A – My top priorities would be to assist in the continued educational plan of the Skagway School Board. It is my hope to provide guidance to all of the children of Skagway.

Working together with the community as well as the board will prove to be a successful joint venture. It is my greatest hope that the children who continue through and graduate out of the school system become successful, productive, well-educated and bright young leaders of tomorrow.

Q – What are your qualifications (or relevant experience) for taking this leadership position?

A – I believe my interactions with various school-related organizations, i.e. School Advisory Council, Parent Teacher Association and Boy Scouts of America organizations in the greater Orlando area gave me a vast amount of knowledge and experience in the area of education.

I was heavily involved in the educational process within the school system. In addition, I easily connect and interact with educators, parents and students as well as individuals in places of authority and key decision makers within the educational system.

Q – What is your favorite way to spend free time in Skagway?

A – Family time is my favorite way to spend my free time. We moved here with the intentions of spending more together. Whether it’s hiking, BBQing, fishing or just taking it easy at home, as long as it’s time well-spent with my loved ones, it’s my favorite way to spend my free time in Skagway. Simple as that.

 

Heather D. Rodig

Q – What are your top priorities, should you be elected?

A – I hope to get a better understanding of issues that we face as a small district. I am excited for the possibility to be involved in the decision-making process regarding matters that affect our kids and generations to come. If elected, I expect to learn a great deal along the way.

Q – What are your qualifications (or relevant experience) for taking this leadership position?

A – As a mother to a recent high school graduate and students entering fifth and ninth grades, I hope to bring a widespread understanding of how issues and decisions impact each age group. I try to stay active in my kids’ lives by volunteering where I can and chaperoning trips when needed. Additionally, I have previously held a coaching position in the FLL Robotics program. Running for a seat on the school board just feels like the next step.

Q – What is your favorite way to spend free time in Skagway?

A – Winters are spent helping with school fundraisers, attending events and traveling to cheer the kids on! When I have downtime, I love to camp, read and spend time with friends and family.

 

Denise Sager

Q – What are your top priorities, should you be elected?

A – I have been and will continue to be supportive of additional and expanded electives and activities. Exposure to a variety of classes and activities will help students find what interests them and will provide for a more robust experience.

Commitment to the activities they choose is a lesson in time management, prioritization, responsibility and experience in balancing daily life. Also, to continue utilization of state tests as well as MAP tests to analyze student proficiency and help them in areas of need. And to help prepare high school students for post-graduation, whether they plan to attend college or not.

Q – What are your qualifications (or relevant experience) for taking this leadership position?

A – I would say first and foremost, my role as a mother has given me the natural instinct to lead. In addition, I have been involved at the school on various levels of leadership; I resurrected and ran the intramural basketball program for three years for grades 2-8 while having little knowledge of the game of basketball. I have assisted in interviewing candidates and attended a job fair in Anchorage in order to fill teacher vacancies at the Skagway School. As director of Little Dippers Learning Center for four years, I was overseen by a board, but I had much independence.

Q – What is your favorite way to spend free time in Skagway?

A – When I have free time I like to: hike with my dogs, go camping, spend time with my family and friends, attend school sports events, watch our local musical talent, spend time in my yard, gardening and raising chickens.