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Whitehorse votes for new mayor

Yukon capital is Juneau's sister city, shares other ties

Posted: October 19, 2012 - 12:07am

Four consolidated city-boroughs in Southeast Alaska have chosen new mayors this month, and voters in the nearby Yukon territorial capital of Whitehorse, a sister city of Juneau, went to the polls Thursday and elected a new mayor as well.

As of press time, the results were not yet known, though Dan Curtis was leading in preliminary returns. Curtis, who ran unsuccessfully as a Liberal Party candidate for the Yukon Territorial Legislature last year, is executive director of the nonprofit Skills Canada Yukon.

The open-seat mayoral race featured five candidates vying to lead the City Council of Whitehorse, a city of less than 24,000.

Mayor Bev Buckway announced she would not seek a third term after Rick Karp, then-president of the Whitehorse Chamber of Commerce, announced his intention to run earlier this year.

While like Juneau, Whitehorse elects its mayor and members of the City Council to serve three-year terms, it diverges from Juneau on how often it conducts its elections.

In Alaska’s capital city, terms for members of the City and Borough of Juneau Assembly are staggered, with three of the nine seats coming up for election every October.

Whitehorse, along with other Yukon communities, holds its municipal elections every three years. It elects both the mayor and all six councillors at each election.

Twenty-two candidates were on the ballot to fill the six councillor positions, including incumbent Councillors Kirk Cameron, Dave Stockdale, Dave Austin and Betty Irwin.

Whitehorse has been Juneau’s sister city since 1989.

“For many years, there were annual, or close to annual, meetings between the Whitehorse City Council and the Juneau Assembly,” said Glenn Gray, a member of the Juneau Sister Cities Committee who has worked to catalog the relationship between the two cities over the years. He said those meetings have not occurred in recent years, but he would like to see the relationship strengthen once again.

“We face a lot of similar challenges, being in the northern areas, you know, the remote areas,” Gray said. “And that’s where those elected officials could really get together” to share perspectives and ideas, he added.

In addition to its relationship with Juneau, which also manifests as regular sports competitions (http://bit.ly/TwSDt9), Whitehorse is also a member of the Southeast Alaska Tourism Council.

“There’s some cooperation there,” said Gray. “We piggyback on each other’s tourism — joint promotions, things like that.”

Sheila Dodd, Whitehorse’s tourism and economic development coordinator, said her city’s exchanges with Juneau have been valuable. She said she hopes to see the winners of the election take an interest in Whitehorse’s relationship with Southeast Alaska, as the likes of outgoing Councillor Florence Roberts have done.

“Sometimes we have really interested Council members, and we’re hoping for that again,” Dodd said.

Dodd identified the major issues in Whitehorse’s municipal election this year as affordable housing, taxes and downtown development — topics that municipal candidates and voters in Juneau grappled with this fall as well.

“Topics like sister city relationships haven’t really come out at all,” Dodd admitted. “We haven’t really heard anyone express too much about the outside interests that we all have.”

But Dodd said Whitehorsers are still keeping an eye on Southeast Alaska.

“We love going to Juneau, and we’re very excited about the 50th anniversary of the Alaska Marine Highway,” said Dodd, referring to the Alaska Marine Highway System’s celebration this fall of half a century’s service (http://bit.ly/RFDQwU). “That’s something that we’re all going to promote up here in Whitehorse.”

• Contact reporter Mark D. Miller at 523-2279 or at mark.d.miller@juneauempire.com.

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