Areawide Assembly candidate: Incumbent says affordable housing issue needs long-term perspective

Posted: Thursday, September 27, 2007

Areawide Assembly incumbent Johan Dybdahl said his Tlingit perspective, grounding in Native culture and 60-year residency in Southeast Alaska have benefited him during his one Assembly term and will hopefully see him through his 2007 re-election bid.

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"We look at things a little differently," Dybdahl said. "We look at things over a longer period of time."

A long-term issue that may benefit from such a perspective is affordable housing.

Dybdahl said his 14 years of experience dealing with the issue on the Juneau Planning Commission have prepared him well. He sees the answer in a multipronged attack that follows the mayor's affordable housing initiative.

Johan Dybdahl

Age: 60.

Occupation: president, Icy Strait Point, which runs a tourism village near Hoonah.

Education: Sheldon Jackson High School in Sitka; attended Western Washington University, Alaska Methodist University and Anchorage Community College.

Time in Juneau: 32 years.

Boards and committees: Juneau Assembly; past chairman, Juneau Planning Commission; Juneau Empire Citizens' Advisory Board; Juneau Lions Club Gold Medal Basketball Committee.

Family: wife, Ethel; children Stacey, John, Shannon, Travis, Bradford.

For more information about Dybdahl go to

These recommendations include:

• Finding where and how land can be developed.

• Looking for where infrastructure such as sewers can foster development.

• Learning how the city can better facilitate developers.

"There is no magic silver bullet," Dybdahl said.

Another long-term issue Dybdahl supports is a road out of Juneau. Dybdahl said he realizes people oftentimes don't see the significance of large infrastructure projects, but benefits, such as cheaper transportation, outweigh the initial costs.

"If you look historically at infrastructure projects in Juneau and cost these things out, perhaps nothing would be built," he said. "Change is going to happen no matter what you do. It's a fallacy to think you will never change. If you don't, you either stagnate or go backwards."

The community's landfill is another issue Dybdahl would like to address. Pressure on the Juneau dump can be alleviated by recycling, a project Dybdahl said definitely needs to be pursued, as well as the purchase of a federally certified incinerator.

Dybdahl said the Assembly is already looking into ways Juneau can join with other communities to build a Southeast solution to regional garbage needs.

One person who is confident Dybdahl is capable of organizing such areawide initiatives is his nephew, Hoonah Mayor Dennis Gray Jr.

Gray worked with Dybdahl on his city's Icy Strait Point tourism initiative, which created a new tourist destination near Hoonah, and was impressed with his ability to work with people from various backgrounds.

"He has the ability to bridge gaps between people and different areas," he said.

Dybdahl said his experience as president of Icy Strait Point gives him a better understanding of the economic needs of Juneau.

He estimates 100 businesses in Juneau supply the Hoonah tourism industry and hopes to see more growth in the tourism industry here.

He believes the city should move forward on plans to accommodate the larger Panamax-size cruise ships, but said the tourism industry won't grow rapidly.

Because of this, Dybdahl said the Kensington gold mine, 45 miles north of downtown, is the best way to improve Juneau's business environment. Such growth will foster more growth as other industries move in to support existing ventures. Growing small businesses and looking at more regional opportunities are also important, Dybdahl said.

Without a more robust business environment in Juneau, Dybdahl said the city will continue to lose more of its youth, something that hits close to his family, which includes nine grandchildren.

"I want my kids to stay. I would love for my grandkids to stay," Dybdahl said.

Andy Ebona, Alaska Native Brotherhood Camp 2 president, said Dybdahl's family is a good reason why he should be re-elected to the Assembly.

"I think as an individual, he's had his family grow up here," Ebona said. "He's a perfect fit."

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