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6 vie for open Council seat: Interviews set for the Jan. 23

Daily News Staff Writer

The City of Ketchikan has received half a dozen applications for an open City Council seat.

The applicants include two people who ran in the most recent municipal elections: Spencer Strassburg, who ran for a council seat; and Michelle O'Brien, who campaigned for Ketchikan Gateway Borough mayor.

Other applicants include Michael T. Briggs, George Tipton, Riley Gass and Emily Chapel.

In contrast to the municipal elections in which the general public votes for the candidates, the council will vote to appoint one of the applicants.

The council will interview candidates at the next council meeting on Jan. 23, before voting for its choice, according to Ketchikan City Clerk Kim Stanker.

As per the Ketchikan municipal code, the interviews will be public, but the council can go into executive session to discuss the candidates.

The candidate who gets four or more votes from the council will be immediately appointed to seat and participate in that evening's meeting.

The appointed council member will serve until the municipal elections in October.

Strassburg, a local businessman of more than two decades, has run for a council seat four times in the past five years. In the most recent election, he garnered 522 votes, while the two winning candidates got around 850 votes each. Strassburg, in the “qualifications” portion of his current application, put: "The only voter approved candidate."

During the election he supported using the cruise ship industry to pay for port improvements. But he also said at the time that, with a potential dock in Ward Cove, the city has time to slow down, figure out what it wants, figure out how to get what it wants, and execute.

O'Brien, who runs the Ketchikan Radio Center, received 1,046 votes when she ran for borough mayor last October, which was about 330 votes behind winner Rodney Dial. O'Brien ran on strengthening the borough-city relationship and envisioned a comprehensive joint tourism plan. O'Brien has been in Ketchikan for more than a decade, served on Ketchikan School Board for seven years, and used to run local television programming at KPUTV, according to her application.

Briggs has been in Ketchikan for more than a decade, and has been the coordinator for several years of the Ketchikan CHARR Salmon Derby.

"This is my opportunity," wrote Briggs in his application, "to give back to the community that has provided my family with rewarding experiences, professional challenges, and rich relationships over the last ten years."

Tipton, a two-time former borough Assembly member, has been actively involved in the Ketchikan community for more than three decades. According to the application Tipton submitted to the city, he has served on the City Parks and Rec Committee, Shipyard Advisory Committee, and Airport Advisory Committee. Tipton formed the Ketchikan Softball Association in 1990, and served as president for the first two decades.

On his application, Tipton said he's "interested in continuing to help the community grow economically and in the best interests for its citizens." He pointed to his experience running the White Pass fuel terminal and tug and barge operations, saying he was "very familiar" with multi-million-dollar budgets.

Gass, a 2013 Kayhi graduate and life-long citizen of Ketchikan also put his name into the running. Gass, who frequents the council meetings, has worked in Ketchikan for his entire adult life and is a landlord, managing multiple properties in the city, according to his application.

Rounding out the applicants is Emily Chapel, who, according to her application, is the current program manager for the Ketchikan Community Foundation, which oversees an endowment that supports local nonprofits. She also works at the Alaska Public Defender Agency and is the secretary of the Ketchikan Chapter of ASEA Local 52. In the past she has volunteered for the Women In Safe Homes organization and worked for the Ketchikan Wellness Coalition.  

In her application Chapel said, "I have a desire to serve and give back to the community that has afforded me many opportunities."

According to Stanker the council is not required to select a council member from the candidates. The council can decide not to choose any of the candidates, and the application process would be reopened. The council also can decide to leave the seat vacant until the next municipal elections, according to Stanker.

The last City Council vacancy in March, prompted two applications. Stanker, who's been with the city since 2009, said there's usually not this many applicants for vacancies.  

The seat became available when former Council Member Lew Williams III, vacated the seat on Dec. 9, citing health reasons. Williams passed away on Saturday.