With the passing of Mayor Monica Carlson, Skagway is scheduled to have a special election on March 19.
Two candidates, Andrew Cremata and Dave Hunz, filed with the borough and are slated to be on the ballot.
The Skagway News reached out to both candidates to get their opinions and viewpoints on questions concerning the municipality, their personal history, and plans if elected mayor.
What are your top priorities should you be elected as mayor?
Andrew Cremata: These were tragic circumstances that led to this end result, so my number one priority is to try and maintain the momentum that Mayor Carlson had gained during her tenure as mayor. I thought she was doing a phenomenal job. She had especially grown into the role and I think we need to continue on the same path.
The things that were dear to her heart, and probably the reason she was elected as a write-in candidate was because she recognized that the majority of Skagway wants to have control of the docks. She was willing to listen to people who could make our ideas of what ownership might mean come true.
We should be willing to listen to all potential partners at this time and try and forge a short-term solution toward controlling our docks after the White Pass Lease expires. In the meantime, we must also figure out short and long term solutions to problems created by the projected 50% increase in cruise ship passengers over the next five years.
Dave Hunz: One of my top priorities as mayor would be planning and development of our port to achieve maximum benefit for all of the citizens of Skagway. Increasing cruise ship size is pushing development of additional infrastructure and I would work to assure that additional assets such as a floating dock and other upgrades are made within the context of a longer-range comprehensive plan. We have the opportunity to include upland facilities such as planned shuttle buses, additional sanitary restroom facilities, more organized and safer staging areas and traffic routes. A comprehensive plan should also include pedestrian pathways from the waterfront into the downtown to better consolidate and guide pedestrian traffic in a more predictable and safer manner.
Another priority is to exercise fiscal restraint and responsibility as a government to guide upgrades to infrastructure maintenance and upgrades to our streets, water and sanitation systems. Attention and planning will be imperative to the State Street project. This project will take substantial coordination with our tour and transportation operators to keep tourism flowing but also minimizes collateral impacts to adjoining neighborhoods.
What qualifications or experiences make you an ideal candidate for mayor?
Andrew Cremata: I am a business owner. I have been involved on an administrative level with the local Elks lodge and Alaska State Elks Association. I’m currently the trustee chair for the Alaska State Elks Association in charge of overseeing multiple budgets. I’m also a district deputy to the grand exalted ruler for the National Elks for the past two years. I oversee six lodges in Southeast Alaska. I go and check on them, visit their lodge, make sure that everything is running smoothly for them. Success in these roles requires being a problem solver, which should serve me well as mayor.
Dave Hunz: As owner/operator of multiple businesses in Skagway for 45 years I understand both the benefits and the impact that government can have on a business owner. My experience in business has taught me how to spot and evaluate a potential opportunity as well as when and how to exercise fiscal restraint. Because my businesses are more industrial in nature, I enjoy a relationship with the mining community in the Yukon as well as many other facets of the industrial sector.
I have served 15 years on the Assembly and I have also seen the other side of the coin. My years on the assembly showed me both the power and limits of government and, more importantly, I fully understand the opportunities facing Skagway.
Finally, I served for several years on the Port Commission and I have a solid understanding of the opportunities we have to manage our own waterfront as a community.
How will you actively try to make Skagway a better place for residents?
Andrew Cremata: We have two forms of residents. We have year-round residents and we have seasonal residents. I don’t think one is better than the other and I think both of them need immediate attention. We identified nine years ago that year round housing and seasonal housing was becoming a serious issue. A task force was created and nothing really came from it. There were serious obstacles that the group ran into. Mayor Carlson was looking into developing a similar group. One of the first things I want to do as mayor is to develop a new task force with two separate roles. One is to identify how we can do something on a year-round basis to make housing more available to young couples and first-time homebuyers. The second part of that is identifying ways to recognize that we have a serious housing problem in the summer months.
Dave Hunz: I’d work to strongly support the great work of our local law enforcement and EMS services, as well as work to continue the wonderful job our clinic and school are doing.
I would also work diligently to maintain a steady hand on the finances of the Municipality to eliminate the need for higher property taxes, a return to a true sales tax holiday, very critically evaluate any additional debt or bond issues and keep the taxpayers of Skagway on sound financial footing.
What is your history with Skagway?
Andrew Cremata: I came here for the first time in summer in 96 from Tampa, Fla. I spent the first couple of summers working seasonally, and I would travel during the winters. I became a resident of Skagway and started living here year-round in the winter of 99. I’ve worked for the newspaper. I’ve written the fishing column since 2001. I’ve been a server, a bartender, and worked jobs to pay the bills. I currently work as a full-time freelance writer and photographer and also work selling tours in the summer.
Dave Hunz: I moved to Skagway with my family in 1959 and graduated here. I’ve witnessed the revitalization of Skagway in the 1970’s when mining brought about infrastructure development in Skagway in the form of year-round jobs and investment in the railroad by White Pass. I also witnessed the explosion of the cruise ship economy that followed a decade later.
I raised my family in Skagway, and started my first business here in the early 1970’s. I’ve worked for the railroad for 49 years.
What are some of your favorite things about Skagway?
Andrew Cremata: I like the fishing. I like the hiking. I like the camping. I like the people and the sense of community. I came here from Florida, from a very different environment, and didn’t know a soul. Some of the people who are my dearest friends in Skagway were willing to open their hearts and their homes when I first moved here and it made a big impression. This is the Skagway that I love, and it’s one I would like to represent.
Dave Hunz: Skagway has amazing natural beauty that surrounds us and a rich history which transforms many of our downtown buildings from mere structures to “stories” and reminders of our history.
We are fortunate to enjoy clean air, pure drinking water, and access to the outdoors and countless activities, low crime and a community where everyone can be successful.
I’m foremost, a husband, father and grandfather. I have a significant investment in Skagway; both emotionally and financially. For these reasons, I have a sincere interest in the success of our community. I’d truly appreciate your support so we can keep Skagway moving in the right direction.