With four-term Mayor Bruce Botelho termed out this year after three consecutive terms, Juneau’s mayoral election this year is an open-seat race for the first time since 2003, when Botelho was elected to succeed retiring Mayor Sally Smith.
Just five months after being termed out himself, former Assemblymember Merrill Sanford declared his intention to run for mayor in March.
As a well-known figure in the Juneau community and city politics, a former deputy mayor, and a three-term former member of the City and Borough of Juneau Assembly he now seeks to lead, Sanford seemed for months to have cleared the field.
But the weekend before the candidate filing period closed Aug. 13, League of Women Voters Treasurer Cheryl Jebe unexpectedly threw her hat into the ring.
“I believe that, as a moderator and a president of the league, state and local, I have developed good skills for presiding over meetings — which is a big part of this position as mayor,” said Jebe, who has previously moderated candidate forums in Juneau but has never before been a candidate herself. She remarked, “It’ll be interesting being on the other side of the questions.”
For Sanford’s part, he has emphasized his years of public service in Juneau, first on the Planning Commission and then on the Assembly, in making his pitch to voters.
“I love this community, and I’m dedicated to it, and I’ve had a lifetime of commitment already to it, and I want to continue that,” Sanford said. Of his time as a mechanic in the United States Marine Corps, working on the Trans-Alaska Pipeline System, serving in Capital City Fire/Rescue and being in city government, he added, “I think all of those things together have helped me learn how to be a team player.”