School Board member begins run for Assembly

Emil Mackey passionate about deferred maintenance, pre-k education

School Board member and District 2 Assembly candidate Emil Mackey speaks about his upcoming campaign at the State Office Building on Friday, Aug. 3, 2018. (Alex McCarthy | Juneau Empire)

Emil Mackey had his paperwork ready to run for re-election to his spot on Juneau’s Board of Education.


On the day he planned on announcing he would be running, Mackey saw that two City and Borough of Juneau Assembly members were planning on vacating their seats to run for mayor. Mackey, a Mendenhall Valley resident, was particularly interested in Beth Weldon’s District 2 Assembly seat.

After a few more days of considering his options, Mackey filed his letter of intent this past Thursday to run for an Assembly seat in the Oct. 2 election. In an interview Friday, Mackey said he’s learned that being an elected official means taking a vast amount of information into account before making a decision.

“Overall, I have no agenda,” Mackey said. “While I have ideas and priorities in my mind, I think the primary job of whoever is elected is to cast a vote based upon the best information they have at that time. I operate under that premise.”

Chiefly, Mackey said he’s concerned about the city’s deferred maintenance. Putting off renovation projects and basic maintenance, he said, can only lead to trouble down the road.

Mackey, 47, is also passionate about the importance of education, both from his one term on the Board of Education and long before. He has a Ph.D. in public policy with a concentration in education, and believes in the city giving as much money to the Juneau School District as it’s allowed to. The Assembly has a good track record recently of funding the district to its cap.

The Assembly has also been considering whether to fund pre-kindergarten programs, and Mackey said he believes these programs are a “win-win” for the city and the district. Mackey said these programs carry both short- and long-term positive effects.

“Pre-k allows more people to enter the workforce, therefore increasing the wealth of the city and of course our taxing ability without having to raise taxes,” Mackey said. “At the same time, it cuts down on special education and other remedial things at the school district level, allowing the school district to maximize its resources for all the students.”

The Assembly is currently weighing whether to include a measure on the Oct. 2 ballot to use property tax revenue to fund pre-k programs.

Mackey said he is pro-choice and is also pro-road. He understands the economic and environmental arguments for and against building a road north of Juneau, but said a road can also provide greater access in case of emergencies.

“We need as many access points into the city as we can get,” Mackey said, “just for economic and food security.”

Mackey currently works for the Department of Insurance, but shifts roles this week. This Wednesday, he’ll begin as a research analyst for the Department of Public Safety’s Council on Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault. Born and raised in Arkansas, Mackey has lived in Juneau since 2013 with previous stops in Kotzebue and Fairbanks.

With Mackey’s declaration, there are now three candidates for two District 2 Assembly seats. Wade Bryson and Michelle Hale have also filed their letters of intent to run for the seats, which Weldon and Jerry Nankervis (who is running for state house) have left vacant.

Norton Gregory is expected to resign his Areawide seat to run for mayor, and Mackey said he’ll think about switching to run for that spot. Mackey said it doesn’t make sense to have three people running in the District 2 race and nobody running for the Areawide seat.

Weldon and Gregory leave one year left to serve on their terms, while Nankervis’ term finishes this fall. Therefore, Nankervis’ vacancy leaves a full three-year term for someone to serve, while Weldon and Gregory’s seats leave a one-year term for someone to serve. In District 2, according to CBJ ordinance 29.07.040, the top vote-getter will get Nankervis’ full term and the second-highest vote-getter will serve Weldon’s one-year term.

During his time on the school board, Mackey served as the policy chair as the district changed its policies to reflect the recommendations of the statewide Alaska Association of School Boards (AASB) and served on the facilities committee.

He said he learned that you don’t know how much information you have to take into account until you’re actually in elected office, and said he has a deeper understanding now of the work it takes to better represent voters.

“I think representative democracy goes both ways,” Mackey said. “It’s a way for you to tell your story to the voters and have them make a decision of whether or not you represent their beliefs and priorities and at the same time it’s a responsibility that you’re going to act in a way that upholds those values.”

• Contact reporter Alex McCarthy at 523-2271 or Follow him on Twitter at @akmccarthy.


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