Randy Wanamaker emphasizes economic diversity in Juneau

Two candidates vie for District 2 Assembly seat

Posted: Wednesday, September 26, 2007

For Juneau Assembly incumbent Randy Wanamaker, it's all about economic diversity.

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The main pillar of Wanamaker's re-election campaign for a third and final term in the District 2 Assembly seat focuses on how to wean Juneau away from its dependence on government and tourism jobs.

Juneau's economy is stagnant, Wanamaker said, and he is confident the best way forward starts with the Kensington gold mine, about 45 miles north of downtown. He said the city must work to foster negotiation between the environmental groups and mine operator Coeur Alaska on the controversial tailings disposal process.

Once this is done, the mine can begin operation within months, Wanamaker said. And once it begins operation, the city can invest more in ocean research, fishing and medical jobs.

Randy Wanamaker

• Age: 63.

• Occupation: executive director, Berners Bay Consortium Human Resources Development Corp.

• Education: Juneau-Douglas High School graduate; bachelor's degree in geological sciences, California State University Hayward.

• Time in Juneau: 42 years.

• Boards and committees: member, Juneau School Board; member, Juneau NAHASDA Housing Program; chairman, Alaska Water Resources Board; member, Riverbend Community School Site Council; member, Juneau School District Boundary Committee; member, Southeast Conference Board; past president, Juneau Tlingit & Haida Community Council; delegate, Central Council of the Tlingit and Haida Indian Tribes of Alaska; chairman, Goldbelt Native corporation.

• Family: wife, Karen Doxey; three daughters, Jennifer, Elisabeth and Kael; and son, Ian.

For more information about Hood's stance on Juneau's top issues or to ask her questions visit our interactive website: www.juneaublogger.com/election

"The mine jobs are our economic link to that future," Wanamaker said. He is the executive director of the Berners Bay Consortium Human Resources Development Corp., which is recruiting and training workers for the Kensington mine.

Wanamaker envisions Juneau becoming a regional medical hub. Because the boards of Bartlett Regional Hospital and SouthEast Alaska Regional Health Consortium both lost their top executives recently, Wanamaker said there is an opportunity to bring the two new leaders together and foster more open cooperation. Wanamaker said he has friends on both boards and is confident he can make this meeting happen.

Another nagging Juneau problem that Wanamaker said he can tackle from different angles is affordable housing.

Wanamaker said he sees two major housing issues.

The first deals with affordable housing for younger families. The Assembly is already working with the private sector to implement cheaper bungalow housing and higher-density housing construction, as well as extend infrastructure, such as sewers, he said.

The second issue involves something that seems to have been ignored by many:

"Juneau is not even really aware of the problem of lack of assisted living for seniors," Wanamaker said.

Wanamaker said Juneau must act quickly to build more affordable assisted living communities for seniors because national statistics show they are the largest growing segment of the population.

"People get to an age where they cannot take care of large homes by themselves," Wanamaker said. "They need places where they have assistance."

Facilities such as Wildflower Court, which charges roughly $15,000 a month or $500 daily, are simply not affordable enough and many seniors need more than home-visit caretakers, Wanamaker said. He believes the city must start from scratch.

"City and county, private and nonprofit all must work together" to solve this problem, Wanamaker said.

On the landfill issue, Wanamaker also sees a missing link in Juneau's chain. The city does not have a landfill for disaster waste management, he said, and is running the risk of creating an environmental hazard because this type of waste contains toxins that cannot be handled by the regular landfill. Wanamaker wants the city to immediately begin work on permitting a special landfill that is certified to handle such waste.

Wanamaker said more also must be done about the existing landfill.

"I don't think we can wait 30 years to figure out what to do with it," he said, referring to the dump's 30-year life span.

He said the city must implement mandatory recycling. After the city has negotiated pickup and disposal fees and recycling begins, the amount of waste going into the landfill can be cut by 30 percent, extending the life of the dump to 50 years.

Waste management through plasma incineration is another possible solution, Wanamaker said. Nothing has been planned yet but he mentioned a proposed plan for a plasma incinerator near Kake. Plasma incineration burns waste in an oxygen-free environment, producing no ash and a smaller byproduct, but the technology is still in its early stages and has yet to be widely adopted.

Jim Becker, Juneau Chamber of Commerce president and member of United Southeast Alaska Gillnetters, isn't surprised Wanamaker is looking into unheralded projects, such as assisted senior living and plasma waste disposal.

"He's not a one-issue guy," Becker said. The two have worked together on fisheries issues over the years and Becker said they have an ongoing dialogue.

"I think he's very dedicated," Becker said. "He works very hard on the city's issues."

Long before Wanamaker became a player in Juneau politics, in 1973, he was convicted of driving while intoxicated in Seattle.

"It was a very long time ago," he said. "I've learned my lesson and never did it again."

Two other city issues to be focused on, capital creep and the road, are linked, Wanamaker said.

Wanamaker would like to create a task force of retired city workers to investigate why government jobs are leaving Juneau and suggest how to bring them back.

Building a road north out of Juneau is another step to securing the capital, according to Wanamaker. He said the city has done all it can to move the road ahead and its construction is only a matter of time. Wanamaker wanted to make it clear he supports the road and said doing the opposite would send the wrong message.

"It would be a gift to the opposition if we said we did not want more access to the capital."

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