With three members of the City and Borough of Juneau Assembly leaving office at the end of their terms this year, fellow Assembly members shared their thoughts Tuesday on the members who are departing and the Assembly to come.
Mayor Bruce Botelho and Deputy Mayor David G. Stone are termed out this year after sitting on the Assembly for three consecutive three-year terms, and Assembly Member Ruth Danner announced last week that she will not seek a second term this October.
Assembly Member Jesse Kiehl, who was elected last year to his District 1 seat, said he has enjoyed working with all three of them.
“It’s a good group, and all you can do is thank them for serving as much and as long as they have,” said Kiehl. “It’s a lot of work, and I appreciate that they’ve done it.”
Botelho sat on the Assembly from 1983 to 1986 and again from 1988 to 1991, the latter term as mayor. After serving for nearly nine years as Alaska’s attorney general, he ran for mayor again in 2003 and won.
Assembly Member Randy Wanamaker said Botelho has applied his legal background to help resolve appeals heard by the Assembly. He said the city “owes him a ‘thank you’” for all the times he has served as presiding officer when an appeal is heard.
“He did a really fine job, and it’s above and beyond the call and duty for being mayor,” Wanamaker said.
Kiehl suggested Botelho’s background as a Boy Scout leader has shaped “the way he helps guide the Assembly.”
“He’s not just looking for five votes to win and get out,” said Kiehl, who said he worked alongside Botelho at the state level before joining the Assembly. “He’s looking at a good direction for the whole body.”
Assembly Member Karen Crane, who is in the second year of her term, said, “I can say I will miss Mayor Botelho’s leadership, and Mr. Stone’s as well.”
Like Botelho, Stone has been on the Assembly since 2003. He has been deputy mayor since last October, and he chaired the Finance Committee from 2004 to 2011.
Wanamaker, who has worked with Stone both on the Assembly and in the Alaska Miners Association, said Stone’s experience in various fields “will be missed” going forward.
“He did a good job of guiding the city through a number of budgets,” Wanamaker said. “His background has certainly been very, very helpful to the community, because he understands transportation and mining infrastructure and mining needs. He’s been a real asset to the community there.”
Kiehl described Danner as someone who is not an automatic vote one way or the other on any given “controversial issue.”
“She’s never hesitant to ask the question that’s on her mind and to bring an issue forward, and she thinks through every single one,” Kiehl said. “She has not been a pattern voter.”
Assembly Member Mary Becker said she does not believe Danner’s decision not to seek reelection means she will vanish from the public scene.
“I respect her decision … and I know that she will stay active, and she is active in many things,” Becker said. “I know she’ll be around.”
Danner’s retirement means that the next Assembly will have no fewer than eight freshmen out of its total of nine members – although Wanamaker, considered a freshman for purposes of seniority, previously served from 2001 to 2010. Mayoral hopeful Merrill Sanford also logged three terms of Assembly service prior to being termed out last year.
Becker said having some veteran members around will be important for the next Assembly, but also noted that she and other members partway through their first terms have some experience of their own.
“If (Sanford) is elected, he and Johan and Randy will be our anchors, I think you could say,” said Becker. She added, “I know I still have a lot to learn, but I think at least I’ll still have two years under my belt. … You do gain experience over time.”
“We’re just all going to have to work hard to make sure that we understand the issues,” Crane said. “Now, when we approach an issue, we get good background and information from the staff, and that will continue.”
Assembly Member Carlton Smith, who was elected last October, said he sees an “opportunity” in the new Assembly.
“I think it’s an opportune moment for some fresh looks at … the existing issues and some new issues. I think it’s going to be good,” Smith said.
Wanamaker said that individual personalities can have a pronounced impact on the Assembly.
“I think that the change in the Assembly will mean that the Assembly will have probably a real different viewpoint of what is the range of community issues that we should address, and how we should approach doing them,” Wanamaker said. “People bring different perspectives based on their experience and their knowledge of community issues.”
Kiehl said the Assembly will lose some valuable assets as longtime members depart.
“There’s a tremendous amount of experience and institutional knowledge that will be gone,” said Kiehl.
Smith said the toughest adjustment for him in joining the Assembly has been learning to balance his duties as an Assembly member with his career and family life. He suggested that with the upcoming Assembly slated to have so many first-term members, it might be a good time to adopt some sort of “orientation program” to help ease new members into the role.
“There is no institutionalized orientation program in place,” Smith said. “That’s actually something that I’d like to see. I’d like to recommend that new Assembly members have some orientation.”
• Contact reporter Mark D. Miller at 523-2279 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.