Of five local politicians whose terms are up this year, only two are definitely putting their names in for another shot at the Oct. 7 municipal election.
The three-year terms of Areawide Assemblyman Carlton Smith, District 1 Assemblyman Jesse Kiehl and District 2 Assemblyman Randy Wanamaker are coming to an end, but only Kiehl has committed to running for re-election.
Smith said he hasn’t made a decision either way, but he will within the next week. He was elected in October 2014 and is finishing his first term.
Wanamaker said it’s time for him to move on to another chapter in his life; he won’t be running for re-election.
“It’s time to let other people have a chance, and I’d like to consider doing other things for a while,” he said. “Nothing more complicated than that.”
Wanamaker was an assemblymember from 2001 through 2009, but this is his first term since then. Once an assemblymember has served three consecutive terms, he or she must wait a year before running again.
Although he hasn’t decided what he will focus on next, Wanamaker said he has “a lot of things I am working on and could work on if I had more time.”
Kiehl said he’s running again to continue work on unfinished business, including school funding, affordable housing and social issues such as homelessness and addiction. He is also finishing his first three-year term on the assembly.
Because of a multimillion-dollar budget deficit, the city was not able to fund the Juneau School District to the highest level during the most recent budget cycle. This was a first for the assembly, which usually funds the district beyond the state-imposed cap. Kiehl said his first order of business would be to push for more funding for the school district in the upcoming budget cycle and beyond.
“Juneau needs to go back to supporting our schools at the maximum level we possibly can ... because strong public schools are so critical for our future,” he said.
Getting the city budget back to a place where it can support the district to the max is another “great challenge of the next few years,” Kiehl said.
“That’s going to take a serious look at both where we spend and what we tax, and that work actually begins before the campaign begins, but I think it’s going to take multiple years to put our budget and our community on sustainable footing,” he said. “I’m committed to doing that.”
Because the budget has been tight, the city has come away from taking a serious look at homelessness and addiction issues that “seem to be growing,” Kiehl said.
“In a difficult budget time it’s hard to talk about the problems ... but we’ve started to see a renewed focus on that,” he said. “I think we need to take that focus and do what we can as both a government and a voter community.”
Although strides have been made in the recent past to improve Juneau’s housing availability, including zoning changes to increase housing density and a recent upcropping of apartments, there’s still more to be done — affordable housing remains a hot topic in Juneau, Kiehl said. That’s another order of business he wants to keep working on.
“We’ve had a lot of successes in the last few years, and I want to continue to build on that because I think there are more things I think we can do,” Kiehl said. “The work’s not done by a long shot.”
JSD school board president Sally Saddler is finishing her second three-year term on the board. She hasn’t decided whether she’ll run for re-election.
“My plan is to take the rest of the summer to relax and consider my options,” she said in an email.
Vice president Sean O’Brien’s term is also coming to a close. He was a board member from 2006 through 2008. He said he plans to run again for one more term.
The filing period officially opens at 8 a.m. Aug. 8 and closes at 4:30 p.m. Aug. 18. Nominating petitions are available at the city clerk’s office and online at www.juneau.org/clerk/elections.
To run for a seat on the assembly, the candidate must have been a resident of Juneau for at least one year by Oct. 7. He or she must be a resident of the district he or she is elected to represent at the time of appointment. He or she must also be qualified to vote in state elections.
To be qualified for a seat on the school board, the candidate must be eligible to vote in state elections, a resident of Juneau for at least 30 days by Oct. 7, not an employee of the Juneau School District, and not a member of the Alaska Legislature.
• Contact reporter Katie Moritz at 523-2294 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @katecmoritz.