Don Habeger has lived in Juneau for nearly 40 years, and though he’s worked in politics, he’s never run for a spot on the Assembly.
That changed Wednesday, when Habeger filed his paperwork with the city to run for a District 2 seat on the Assembly in the Oct. 2 election. Habeger, 62, said there wasn’t just one factor that made him want to declare his candidacy.
First of all, he said in an interview Thursday, he has more time on his hands now than he has in a long time. Habeger has spent decades working in the cruise industry and in state government. Most prominently, he worked for Gov. Sean Parnell’s office in various roles for five years.
Now, Habeger’s only contractual agreement is with the Juneau Reentry Coalition. Thanks to an Alaska Mental Health Trust Authority grant, Habeger came on as the organization’s community coordinator starting in November 2015. He continues to work with the nonprofit, which seeks to coordinate services for people reentering society after incarceration, and has communicated with the Assembly about issues relating to reentry.
Secondly, Habeger said, he’s concerned with the state of Juneau’s economy.
“We’ve been inundated, it seems, with reports of job loss and economic stagnation,” Habeger said. “I’m concerned about those things. I’ve entered the race to be a part of that conversation.”
The 2017 census of employment and wages, released in June, showed that Juneau lost about 200 jobs between 2016 and 2017, and that total earnings declined by about $8 million. Average wages declined in Juneau’s public and private sectors, the census also showed.
With his background in the private and public sectors, Habeger said, he thinks he can provide insight into how both sides work.
“Diversity of experience is certainly part of it,” Habeger said. “Flexibility of schedule is a part of it. I’ve had enough life experiences to understand that there are many factors involved in policy decisions, and I believe my experience augments policy decisions.”
Habeger joins a crowded field in the District 2 Assembly race, as there are currently four declared candidates for two open spots. Wade Bryson has also registered with the city for the race, and other challengers Michelle Hale and Emil Mackey have announced their intentions to run. The deadline for candidates to file their paperwork with the city is 4:30 p.m. this coming Monday.
The two District 2 seats — which represent the Mendenhall Valley and out the road — are not equal, though. Deputy Mayor Jerry Nankervis is not running for re-election for his Assembly seat, because he’s running for a spot in the state house instead. His open seat is a full, three-year Assembly term.
Beth Weldon resigned from her District 2 seat earlier this month to run for mayor. She still has one year left on her Assembly term, though, and whoever wins her seat will serve the remainder of that term and then will have to be re-elected. As a result, the District 2 candidate who gets the most votes in the Oct. 2 election will get Nankervis’ seat and a three-year term. The candidate who gets the second-most votes will fill Weldon’s one-year term. This is according to CBJ ordinance 29.07.040.
Habeger, who moved from Minnesota to Juneau in August 1979, has been politically involved for quite some time. According to Alaska Public Offices Commission filings, Habeger has been registered as the treasurer for the Capital City Republicans since 2011.
Municipal elections are nonpartisan, meaning candidates don’t carry party affiliations with them. That doesn’t mean they don’t have their own political views, though. For example, two current Assembly members, Rob Edwardson and Jesse Kiehl, work for Democratic legislators. Habeger said everyone has their own political views, and getting involved with one party or another shouldn’t prevent them from serving on a nonpartisan body such as the Assembly.
“It’s a volunteer position for a group of folks that are interested in how our community shapes up and I don’t think that there’s anything specifically wrong with that,” Habeger said. “I think all of us have mindsets that influence how we make decisions, or how we advocate for things.”
One of the main topics Habeger wants to advocate for is reentry. During his time with the coalition, Habeger said, he’s become convinced that there are many barriers — such as housing costs or medical access — for people coming out of prison that need to be addressed.
The reentry coalition was represented on Mayor Ken Koelsch’s Public Safety Task Force that was put together last year, and Habeger hopes to keep those interests in mind as the Assembly considers ways to make the community safer.
“That work was started with our role, the coalition’s role in the Public Safety Task Force,” Habeger said. “It’s a perspective that I would like to see continued to be recognized as we make our public safety decisions for our community.”
• Contact reporter Alex McCarthy at 523-2271 or email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter at @akmccarthy.