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City Council candidate forum set: Chamber event set for Wednesday at Cape Fox Lodge

Daily News Staff Writer

Three candidates vying for two Ketchikan City Council seats in the Oct. 1 municipal election will face off at noon Wednesday at a Ketchikan Chamber of Commerce forum at the Cape Fox Lodge.

Incumbents Lew Williams III and Judy Zenge are fresh off six consecutive council meetings in as many weeks. The challenger, Spencer Strassburg, is making his fourth go at a council seat.

The three candidates are vying for two open City Council seats, each with a three-year term limit.

Strassburg and Williams had a showdown in May over who would fill the council seat left open by the resignation of former Council Member Julie Isom. The council voted 4-2 in favor of Williams.

Zenge and Isom bested Strassburg in the 2016 municipal election, with Zenge receiving the most votes.

In the past, the chamber forum has given candidates a platform to convey their philosophy and respond to a few questions concerning the community.

Strassburg, local businessman affiliated with the Fox Hole, moved to Ketchikan more than 20 years ago. Previously, he's run on transparency and accessibility.

"I'll keep on talking when the rest of you guys walk away at the grocery store," said Strassburg at council meeting earlier this year.

Lew Williams III, served as the City of Ketchikan mayor from 2009 to 2017. Working as co-publisher of the Ketchikan Daily News, he has been on the council off and on since 1987.

Judy Zenge has been the community more than 20 years and manages The Plaza mall. She has served two consecutive terms on the council.

The City Council recently voted 5-2, to approve the first reading of a change to the municipal code that would raise the sales tax cap from $1,000 to $2,000.

Strassburg said in a recent interview that he opposed the sales tax increase, because he says it affects locals the most, which is what Council Member Sam Bergeron implied at the last council meeting. Bergeron and Williams voted against the increase.

The council will start to review the budget a couple of months after the election. Strassburg said he's not going to support any new tax or rate increase on residents until the city figures out how to get more financial support from the cruise ship industry.

In 2019's budget, the City Council approved water, wastewater and electric rate increases. The electric rate increases have been delayed, given the diesel surcharge residents have been paying to support the cost of diesel generators during the drought that started last fall.  

Williams was not on the council during the approval of the rate increases. When the council voted 4-3 against a property tax increase, Williams voted against, and Zenge for, the increase.

Council members serve three-year terms and "shall receive compensation at the rate of $300 for each regular meeting attended and $150 for each special meeting of the council attended. Each council member shall receive a monthly expense allowance of $105," according to the Ketchikan Municipal Code.

The Ketchikan Chamber of Commerce will host a Ketchikan Borough Assembly candidate forum Sept. 16 and a Borough mayor candidate forum Sept. 25.