Read 2020 candidate responses to The Skagway News Questionnaire.

Sam Bass

Tell us about yourself. Why did you decide to run for office?

I ran this year because I have a desire to serve my community and because Skagway has a very demanding three years ahead. In the immediate future we must manage the health and economic impacts of COVID-19 and continue preparations for the soon to expire port lease. We must also continue to fund our school, upgrade our infrastructure, service our growing elderly population, mitigate our housing shortage and continue to develop the many other items that ensure the physical, financial and social well-being of our citizens.

In an effort to address these issues, I bring my 22 years of service in the U.S. Coast Guard where I managed hundreds of search and rescue cases, supervised port and vessel safety, oversaw port security operations, conducted foreign vessel screenings and supervised numerous marine pollution response operations. I will also bring the knowledge I have gained locally while serving on the Skagway School Board, Skagway Clinic Board and as vice chair of the Port Commission.

I have two school-aged children, elderly family members and two year-round businesses, all in Skagway. I have also earned my bachelor’s degree in emergency and disaster management with a focus on homeland security. I believe that my knowledge and experience can be an asset to the assembly and the community.

How should the municipality continue to support year-round residents of Skagway through the winter?

Supporting citizens through the winter is especially important this year. Some ideas to consider are; heating grants, internet grants, continued financial stimulus, property tax extensions, sales tax reduction, reduction or elimination of municipality service fees; including water/sewage/garbage, etc.

We must also consider the physical, psychological and social health of our citizens. We can support those things by making personal protective equipment available, creating a “well-being” sign-up sheet and conducting scheduled checkups on people that request it, supporting our local food bank and other social resources, supporting safe group meetings and waiving fees for social events, offering direct support for medical needs and medicine, encouraging the use of electronic meetings, etc.

However, all efforts should be balanced against maintaining the financial well-being of the municipality while also considering the exceptional difficulty citizens will encounter this year due to the unprecedented effects of COVID.

How will you maintain a working relationship with White Pass while transitioning to  municipality port management in 2023?A strong working relationship with our primary port partner is very important; we must work together to ensure that a smooth transition can occur so that the port can operate as efficiently as possible, especially during the transition and retrofitting of the piers and uplands. To ensure this we need to establish a working group consisting of all our port partners. The creation and use of this group will ensure that the municipality and our port partners have a forum for collaboration, cooperation and idea exchange.

A smooth and amicable transition period followed by a development period anchored on mutual support will result in a stronger, more stable and more successful Skagway Port, which will benefit everyone.

How should Skagway approach the 2021 summer season in regards to COVID-19 and protecting both the economy and residents?

Skagway absolutely needs the ships to return but we must also ensure that the safety of our citizens can be maintained. Hopefully, there will be a vaccine or other mitigation tool in place by next cruise season, but we must build our plan assuming it will not. The best way forward is for us to closely monitor the guidelines set by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for the cruise industry and make sure that those guidelines are also applicable to Skagway and our unique situation. (Ten thousand visitors in Skagway have a much bigger impact than 10,0000 visitors in Seattle or even Juneau.) If we feel that the CDC guidelines are not adequate for Skagway then we can look at what added measures may be required to safely allow visitors safely into town.

Dan Henry

Editors note:  We received Mr. Henry’s answers on September 28, after our deadline.

Tell us about yourself. Why did you decide to run for office?

I decided to run for reelection because we find ourselves in a set of very serious circumstances both with COVID-19 and putting together a solid plan for building out the port of Skagway that will support our future for generations to come. Bringing twenty-three years of experience and institutional knowledge to the table is invaluable.

How should the municipality continue to support year-round residents of Skagway through the winter?

The Municipality has done an outstanding and creative job to this point. There are several options available to us considering the great job our past Finance Committees and Assembly have done to this point, having bolstered the reserves. We have deferred or waived different expenses and we will continue to be creative with our approach to help every citizen possible. We can only do this of course due to the good financial position we’re in due to sound financial oversight. We’ll be working on it!

How will you maintain a working relationship with White Pass while transitioning to municipality port management in 2023?

We have always had a good working relationship with White Pass and I don’t anticipate anything altering that as we move forward.

How should Skagway approach the 2021 summer season in regards to COVID-19 and protecting both the economy and residents?

We certainly must maintain a solid protocol of our own design, and weave in the direction of the CDC as it pertains to the the plan worked out with the cruise lines. Continue to listen to the experts with regard to ever evolving input, as I see this being just that: a continually changing process. It’s going to be day by day, week by week as we gradually grow back into a thriving port once more.


Rebecca Hylton

Tell us about yourself. Why did you decide to run for office?

I have been a year-round resident in Skagway since 2005; my first year here was in 1996. I was a seasonal resident as I finished my degree in early childhood education and lived year-round in Haines before settling down in Skagway. I worked for Chilkat Guides from 1996-2006 and my job title when I departed the company was Skagway operations manager. I worked for White Pass & Yukon Route Railroad from 2007-2018. My title when I departed was shore excursions relations and sales. I was also part owner/operator of Sugar Mamas from 2008-2016. And in 2012, I bought my home here in Skagway. That year I also had my son, Emmett.  He is 7 years old, the light of my life, and is enrolled as a 2nd grader in our Skagway School. Currently, I am furloughed as the marketing/tour director for Skagway Brewing Company.

I decided to run for a few reasons:

1) Our assembly needs some diversity. We need a female voice.

2) Our children/families with young children need to be represented as well. After listening to several assembly meetings this past year, it was very apparent that both of these important demographics are not being represented.

3) Our community will be faced with some very important decisions in the next few years. I’m a “big picture” thinker and problem solver coming from a place of wanting to keep Skagway my home and do right by all of our citizens, not just one sector.

How should the municipality continue to support year-round residents of Skagway through the winter?

The SNOW grant failed to move forward after it was presented to the assembly on Sept. 17. This grant was specifically brought to the table to support our year-round businesses and in turn, our residents. Helping our year-round business keep their doors open is vital to the health and well-being of our community on so many levels. If this program, or something similar, does not make its way into fruition, then I will take it upon myself to make sure something comparable is brought to the table.

The CARES funding has been handled wonderfully on the municipal level. If more federal dollars come to us in this form, or if we have other similar resources available, I would like to see it distributed on more of a need-basis. Have we all been negatively affected by COVID?  Yes, we have. However, are we all concerned about how we will heat our homes, pay our mortgage, lose our business or even feed our families? No, we are not. Direct assistance with paying mortgages/rent, electric bills, internet services, fuel, and food, have already been implemented in other Southeast communities. I would like to see Skagway do something similar if there are funds available.

How will you maintain a working relationship with White Pass while transitioning to municipality port management in 2023?

The Port Commission was recently dissolved when changes to Title 12 were approved. The new Port and Harbor Board, along with a manager specifically hired to take on this endeavor, will be taking the reigns as we take back control over our port. I’m excited to see movement on this very important issue.

I worked for White Pass &Yukon Route Railroad for 12 years and overall had a wonderful experience. They are the best of the best when it comes to daily operations. The employees are really what makes the railroad one of the most successful operations in North America. These employees are our neighbors, our friends, and Skagway would not be Skagway without them. But it’s no secret that tension exists in our community. How we move forward though this will be challenging, we are all adults and professionals, and we should act accordingly, working together on the transition to make Skagway as successful as possible.

How should Skagway approach the 2021 summer season in regards to COVID-19 and protecting both the economy and residents? 

It is imperative that we are proactive and not reactive. The municipality is already working with other Southeast Alaskan communities on how, as a whole, we can keep our community members safe. Best practice standards by local businesses will be implemented, but we also have to be hyper aware about how our community differs from Ketchikan, Juneau and Sitka. We have no hospital and if a cruise ship guest tests positive for COVID, we need to make sure that they disembark in another port. We must also communicate to all community members the current health status of the passengers and crew. When ships have cases of the norovirus, tour operators with contracts onboard are notified and respond appropriately to the situation. They enact protocols such as properly sanitizing between use and forbid guests from different ships to be placed on the same tour to minimize mingling. These types of protocols should be standard practice as applicable to this coming 2021 season, but there also needs to be transparency regarding health issues.

In addition, Skagway Convention & Visitors Bureau (CVB) is working toward rebuilding their website and rebranding. To put it bluntly, we’ve been on easy street in regard to our economy and tourism specifically.  It’s time we support and follow the lead of the CVB and make sure they get the resources they need to help us through these uncharted times. Having a better presence on the web, as well as going touchless with as many things as we can are great examples of how we will move forward and help both our economy and our safety.

Beth Smith

Tell us about yourself. Why did you decide to run for office?

I came to Skagway as a seasonal worker in 1999 and have been a year-round resident since 2001. I own and operate three year-round businesses: Station Bar & Grill (2002), Morning Wood Hotel (2006) and Happy Endings Saloon (2016). I sit and have sat on many municipal boards: Skagway Convention & Visitors Bureau (2010 to present, chair: 2014 to present); Skagway Child Care Council (2008 – 2014); Planning and Zoning (2013); Skagway Recreation Board (2013- 2017);  president of Skagway Booster Club (2015-present). I believe my greatest quality is knowing I do not always have the correct solution or answer to every problem or question; however, I will research, seek out experts, and ask many questions until I find the right answers.  I am open minded and I am never afraid to change my opinions as new information is received or situations change.

I am running for assembly because I have passion, love and drive to do what is best for Skagway!  The enormous decisions facing Skagway’s assembly will have considerable impact on this community. I have a vested interest in the future of this community and our children’s future.

It is important to me that the year-round, small businesses of Skagway have a larger voice at the table. Furthermore, I want our assembly to represent more families with children in the Skagway school system. Our school and our community go hand in hand. When our school is successful, it drives more families to Skagway and it keeps families in Skagway, thus enlarging our community.

How should the municipality continue to support year-round residents of Skagway through the winter?

First, I want to say that the municipality and assembly handled the CARES Act funding in a remarkable way. No other community that I am aware of looked after their residents the way Skagway did. By giving a portion of this money directly to its residents, Skagway ensured that families could pay their mortgages/rent, utilities and groceries. Money was spent locally which helped small businesses keep their doors open. The reality though, is that we will end up without a cruise ship or significant visitor traffic for 19 months and the CARES Act Funding will only stretch so far. I would like the municipality to continue to offer support to year-round Skagway residents after the CARES Act money stops being distributed by offering a tax holiday for the first quarter of 2021.  In addition, I think the municipality should consider discounting the current rate for all city utilities and the incinerator for the first quarter of 2021.

How will you maintain a working relationship with White Pass while transitioning to  municipality port management in 2023? 

First, I believe it is important and relevant for all of us in this community to acknowledge how much White Pass & Yukon Route Railroad has done, and continues to do for our community, year after year. They have contributed to our community with jobs, sales tax and property tax. They have given to our charities and our graduating seniors and have delivered a visitor experience that contributes to Skagway’s success as a world class travel destination. Having said that though, I believe as corporate citizens of Skagway and stewards of our community, the Municipality of Skagway must hold them to the highest standard and push for our port remediation and clean up immediately. The time is now to clean up our port and prepare for our future. If I am elected to assembly, I will push that the remediation between the Municipality of Skagway and White Pass start back up immediately. I would urge the assembly to come back to the table with an open mind and listen to the latest proposal White Pass may have regarding a possible partnership or any short or long-term investment possibilities.  If it turns out that the assembly does not feel like White Pass is a good fit for either of these possibilities, at least it will provide closure for White Pass and allow them to plan accordingly for their future. I would strongly advocate and encourage continuous communication between the municipality and White Pass.

How should Skagway approach the 2021 summer season in regards to COVID-19 and protecting both the economy and residents?  

As my mother would say…very carefully!  And by that, I mean there needs to be a balance between the two. We need a mitigation plan that will keep our residents safe (physically and mentally), while still allowing our businesses to operate and contribute to our very delicate economy. I understand Skagway is currently working with other ports to develop such protocols that take into account concerns of all the ports, resident safety, worker safety and visitor safety. Ultimately though, this must be a collaborative effort between port communities like Skagway, the cruise lines, as well as state and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines. That being said, I believe Skagway needs to continue to be proactive in assessing our community’s expectations as a whole, as well as ensuring these expectations are relayed to the cruise lines, independent travelers and local businesses, as well as our community members. I would like to see Skagway offer testing to every tourist coming into this town, at all four entry points (highway, airport, ferry and cruise), until a sound vaccine is made available.