After serving on the city Planning Commission for 15 years, Johan Dybdahl decided it's time for a change.
Dybdahl, 57, is running for a districtwide Assembly seat this October. This is his first time running for public office.
"I don't consider the Planning Commission a stepping stone," Dybdahl said. "I want to share some of that experience. I can offer my expertise in zoning and planning."
Dybdahl was unopposed until Sybil Davis, executive director of the Juneau Arts and Humanities Council, rejoined the race Tuesday as a write-in after dropping out as a ballot candidate.
Dybdahl said he wants to serve on the Assembly for the same reason he has served on the Planning Commission.
"I have to meet my obligations as a citizen," he said. "When I first worked for Sealaska Corp., my boss encouraged all the employees to get involved in the community. Since I had some background in housing and property management, he encouraged me to apply for the Planning Commission."
Dybdahl said if elected, he will keep working with other Southeast Alaskan communities to keep the state capital in Juneau.
"Sometimes Juneau forgets that this is something we need to work on all the time," Dybdahl said. "Juneau is the regional center in the north half of Southeast Alaska. Ketchikan is the regional center in the south half. We have an interdependent relationship in Southeast Alaska."
Dybdahl said he knows Southeast Alaska well. He has lived and worked throughout the region.
He was born in Ketchikan. When he was 2 months old, the family moved to Icy Strait Point, about 112 miles from Hoonah. He went to high school in Sitka and attended college in Anchorage, where he aspired to be an elementary school teacher.
A job offer from Tlingit and Haida Regional Housing Authority brought him to Juneau, where he has lived for 29 years. His current company, Point Sophia Development, recently made Icy Strait Point a cruise ship destination.
Although he is developing Hoonah's tourism industry, Dybdahl said Juneau shouldn't depend too much on tourism.
"We need to have a more diversified economy. Tourism is a great part but it shouldn't be the only part of the economy," Dybdahl said. "Mining can be an opportunity. Fishing is starting to come back again. "
Dybdahl said Juneau needs to open up more developable lands.
"With very little developable lands available, the housing prices are high. That causes our young people to leave Juneau," Dybdahl said. "The city needs to expand sewer, water and other infrastructures to make more lands developable."
He said construction of the second crossing over the Gastineau Channel is essential for developing north Douglas Island.
While some people criticize him for being pro-development, Dybdahl said he doesn't like to be labeled.
"Some people make development sound like a dirty word. Some people make environmental conservation sound like a dirty word," Dybdahl said. "If you look at all perspectives, you can come up with a solution. And it's possibly the best solution."
Dybdahl said education is another top priority of his campaign.
"I raised five children here. I know how crowded the high school is," Dybdahl said. "Sitka is smaller than Juneau, but it has three high schools. We all competed. That was a lot of fun."
Dybdahl said he would like the Assembly to examine all the city's advisory committees to see if their functions are overlapping.
"We have so many advisory committees that it makes it difficult for people to make to these meetings," Dybdahl said. "The advisory committees should be conduits of information for the Assembly. They shouldn't be buffers."
Dybdahl said he knows he cannot accomplish all his goals by himself.
"I am not naive," Dybdahl said. "We have nine people on the Assembly. I need to have four people agree with me. But I am persuasive, and I listen carefully."