Opinion: A newcomer’s perspective on Juneau’s election

This month’s election prompted one new Juneauite to consider the differences between his new community and his old one. Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Paul! – Mary

As a newcomer to Juneau it’s hard for me to say what is in Juneau’s best interest. I recently moved here from my hometown of Anchorage, a city more than 9 times the size. Up there we don’t need a ferry to access the road system, and driving to “the valley” during rush hour can take more than an hour depending on traffic and road conditions. Oh, and there’s no sales tax.

Down here, I’ve noticed quite the cultural shift. In Juneau, we’re much more dependent on tourism. While we have some chains like Safeway, Costco, and Fred Meyers, we’re also much more dependent on the local economy. From my apartment downtown, I love how I’m just a stone’s throw from Mt. Roberts. Being smaller, I like how we’re also much more connected with our assembly members.

Smaller = More Connected
I actually knew two of the winners of this recent election before I moved down here permanently and decided to make Juneau my home. Jesse Kiehl and Rob Edwardson were both colleagues of mine in the Capitol. I worked for Anchorage Rep. Josephson this last session. Jesse works for Sen. Egan, and Rob for Rep. Parish.

I like and respect Jesse. He’s quick to pick up on the issues and his heart is in doing what’s best for his state and community. Since moving here permanently in July I dredged through a couple assembly meetings and saw him in action. With the leadership he shows, it’s no surprise that he out raised all of the other candidates for assembly and school board. He raised more than $35,000, while Debbie White came in 2nd with just over $15,000.

I was also impressed by Rob Edwardson’s campaign. His opponent Debbie White outraised him by more than $5000, and he did not have the advantage of an incumbency. Yet, he walked away victorious with more than 70% of the vote. His campaign was a true family operation, with his daughter Susie managing the campaign, and his wife Sandy coordinating the volunteers.

Voter Participation
In an article on Sunday, October 8 the Juneau Empire reported that the final count for voter turnout in Juneau was about 28.1%. This is expectedly lower than the last general election in 2016 (33.5%), and lower still than the average over the last 10 years of 29%. Downtown Juneau, and North Douglas were above the citywide average at 29.1% and 28.5% respectively. However, the Lemon Creek area was less than half of that at 13.4%. Historically, more than 10 years ago Juneau voters turned out at an average of 38%.

I’ve enjoyed a lot of new things since coming to Juneau, and this fall’s election held a number of surprises for me. I look forward to seeing how the new Assembly moves forward and addresses the challenges before it.

Paul Kelly is a 3rd generation Alaskan who grew up in Anchorage and graduated from the University of Alaska Anchorage with a degree in Computer Engineering. Since moving to Juneau in July of 2017 he most enjoys hiking, running, and watching independent films at a venue downtown.

The views in this opinion piece are those of the author. They are not official positions of TongassDemocrats.com or the Tongass Democrats.

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