Editor’s note: The 2021 City of Ketchikan municipal election scheduled for Oct. 5 includes two 3-year seats available on the Ketchikan City Council. There are four candidates in the council race. The names of three candidates — Jai Mahtani, Janalee Gage and Lallette Kistler — will appear on the ballot. A fourth candidate, Bronson Olson, is running as a write-in candidate. The candidates participated in a written forum with the Ketchikan Daily News, and their responses are included here. A written forum with Ketchikan city mayor candidate Dave Kiffer was published in the Friday, Oct. 1 edition of the Daily News. The Daily News’ written forum with the candidates for the Ketchikan Gateway Borough Assembly was published on Thursday, Sept. 30, and the written forum with  the candidates for the Ketchikan School Board was published on Wednesday, Sept. 29.

Janalee Gage

Occupation: Work Development Specialist/Photographer, Artist.

Time of residence in Ketchikan: 43 years. Born and raised.

Previous elected office(s): Two terms on the Ketchikan City Council.

• Introductory statement: My name is Janalee Frost, Hunt, Snartamo, Talbot, Church, Minnich, Gage — 6th generation, born and raised in Ketchikan, and running for a third, 3-year term with the Ketchikan City Council.

 Before serving the last six years on the City Council, I graduated with a bachelor's degree in Fine Art, worked as a Bartender, was the GED Examiner in Kotzebue for five years, worked for Kenai, and the Ketchikan Alcohol Safety Action Program for six years.

Today, I continue to teach the 12-hour alcohol class on long weekends, and work on my art photography. In addition, you will find me volunteering time and skills to many nonprofits in the community.  

 I have spent most of my life living, working and volunteering, and meeting people where they are at. As an individual living with a disability, I understand the difficulties of getting back on my feet after a significant accident. I have spent the last 15 years working and developing an understanding of the complexity and complicated issues surrounding social programs, including substance, homelessness, mental health, and disability Issues. I understand the vital essential needs for support systems that assist us with early intervention, and support programs for community members in all areas of disabilities, and substance- and drug-related health problems.

• The Ketchikan City Council will start work soon on the 2022 budgets for the City of Ketchikan and Ketchikan Public Utilities — an effort that will follow nearly two years of pandemic effects on revenues and will be undertaken while facing an uncertain future. What budget priorities do you recommend for city services, staffing and revenues?

I will be brutally honest here, my priority is to support the staff in very difficult decisions. We already have a skeleton crew, add in a nonexistent budget, and the question is where we go from here.

Remember our crew — those who work in water, sewer, garbage, and all city jobs — are our neighbors, friends and family, many of whom I grew up with and graduated high school with. They own homes, they pay the same fees we pay, and the last thing I want to see is jobs cut where we barely have enough folks to meet the needs and supply the services expected by our community. I take this into consideration for every decision I make, and it is not made lightly.

• The City of Ketchikan is seeking to hire several new leaders, including managers for the City of Ketchikan, Ketchikan Public Utilities, Ketchikan Police Department and the Ketchikan Fire Department. How should the city proceed with filling the city manager and KPU manager positions and what attributes would you be looking for? Please address whether the positions should remain consolidated as they have been since the late 1990s, with one individual managing both entities.

Understanding the complexity of the job for each of these, and required education needed to do these jobs, I believe community understanding, engagement and respect are of utmost importance. As we go through this process, I will be looking for someone who exhibits integrity and cultural respect. Although I brought it up, I do understand the key reasons behind combining the city management job and KPU management back in 1999.

This was at the end of the Pulp Mill era, and the effect of that closure. Ketchikan was at a crossroad, and like today with COVID-19, we saw considerable loss in revenue due to the closing of the pulp mill and there was a need to look for savings to the community. The consolidation of the two managers, accounted for about $11 million-plus in savings. The consolidation became even more important over the years as the relationship between KPU and the city evolved. Collaboration and communication between departments is unified, and results in a better all-around operation. Today we have a more cohesive working relationship between the two entities. Of course, with the loss of our city manager, whether we can fill his shoes with someone with such a diverse resume will remain to be seen, so we may need to consider changes.

• Prior to the pandemic and development of the cruise dock in Ward Cove, improving the city’s port infrastructure was a long-running topic for the City Council. What should the city be considering regarding port infrastructure now — and for the long term?

In recent years, the council became more active in defining and addressing our relationship with the cruise industry, its vital role in our community’s economics, and impacts on the community. I’m aware it’s important to manage this asset, and I’m not against tourism. I am for responsible tourism that’s respectful to the community culturally, environmentally and cost to infrastructure.

As Covid set in, the city began having tough conversations with the industry, and I’m ready for one of the toughest conversations and negotiations that our community will face in coming years.

In 2019, Ketchikan estimated $2.5 million annually in revenue from CPV, port and dockage fees. These funds are restricted by a 230-year-old maritime law that limits how the city can use them. Up until Covid, we used them for crossing guards, bathrooms, and even some bus routes for crew and passengers to access various locations, including Walmart.

Visitors double, and at times triple, our population, putting a strain on our aging and failing infrastructures, which include water, sewer, garbage, roads and even transportation.  

These aren’t easy conversations, but Ketchikan can’t continue with the aging system we’re stuck in, and is often paying for. Ketchikan deserves better. It’s time the industry starts paying its fair share for these areas they effect.

I am here to make sure that residents and local business owners are taken into consideration. I know that the status quo cannot continue, and I am vested in seeing that balance and fairness is achieved for the community.

• Discussions about how to best support the community members experiencing homelessness are underway. What are your ideas for the best way to move forward?

This complex and diverse issue has no one solution, and our existing local and state programs haven’t been able to keep up. Ketchikan has many amazing people and coalitions working on this topic, and anything the city can do to enhance these efforts is important.

I believe that affordable housing for one sector of this population would help, especially since rents have jumped 10% in the last year. For another sector, a housing-first project is vital. We must meet people where they’re at; telling someone they must change at the snap of a finger doesn’t work.

We need to give our most vulnerable community members dependable housing to help them begin healing from years of medical, mental health and trauma issues.

Our community is good at helping a person in need, but we must work on giving second chances to those who’ve made poor decisions under the influence of drugs or alcohol. We need work programs that help people get back on their feet, build self-esteem and skills.

Next, we need advocates for those with mental health issues — family, friends, people they trust to work with them. I know from personal experience how hard it is for an individual with a mental disability to navigate, make appointments, and take medications on time without support. There’s no telling how long a person will need support. For some it takes years, and for others, it is a lifetime commitment from someone to assist them with medication, life choices and managing daily living.

Lallette Kistler

Occupation: Private Voice & Piano Teacher, Bookkeeper, Financial Administrator, Landlord, Choral Director, Accompanist.

Time of residence in Ketchikan: 39 years.

Previous elected office(s): Chair of the Performing Arts Center Committee.

• Introductory statement: I believe my varied experiences in Ketchikan give me valuable insight into the community needs, and I hope to bring common-sense reasoning to the Ketchikan City Council.

I came to Ketchikan in 1982 and since then have been involved in many different sectors in the community. I love learning new things, which is what kept me at State Farm for 29 years. There I mastered all facets of insurance, banking and mutual funds, and enjoyed helping people understand difficult concepts and legalese.

Prior to that, I had a long tenure with Tatsuda’s, where I moved from checker to the meat department to start-up deli manager. I was also a radio personality and union shop steward.

On the side, I’ve always been heavily involved with the performing arts, and done the books for the family drywall business, rentals, and my voice and piano lessons. In the ‘90s, I also learned a lot about the visitor industry as a partner in a historical musical revue. When I first came to town, I did some waitressing.

Today, music lessons are my primary source of income, and I supplement that with several small jobs that found me after I retired from State Farm. I always like to keep busy, and “if you want something done, ask a busy person.” I’m always up for a new challenge. I’ve always been a problem solver. I love to collaborate, and I hope to help put a dent in the problems our community is facing as your new City Councilman.

• The Ketchikan City Council will start work soon on the 2022 budgets for the City of Ketchikan and Ketchikan Public Utilities — an effort that will follow nearly two years of pandemic effects on revenues and will be undertaken while facing an uncertain future. What budget priorities do you recommend for city services, staffing and revenues?

The budget will be the most difficult task we have ahead of us this year. First and foremost, we cannot neglect our first responders who are taking on extra duties in this time of troubled souls and empty bank accounts. I would love to find a way to fund dash cams for the police just to foster harmony, which is much needed right now.

My strategy would be to cut straight across the board and then adjust from there. Obviously, there are some obligations that can’t be cut, and we can’t entirely do away with nonprofits, because they are part of what is helping to keep our residents sane in this insane world. Not everyone finds solace in ballfields (Vote YES on the turf!), but the arts, and community help groups are also vital to our vitality!

I’ve been self-employed for 35 years, and our drywall business saw its fair share of lean years. The last year and a half also has been brutal for my lessons and rentals. We’ve had to drain the reserves, turn the heat down, lay off the help, and cut back on the frills, but you can’t cut them all or you’ll suffer your sanity.

I see a bright future ahead for Ketchikan. How far away it is, is anyone’s guess. The successful return of a few ships this year gives us reason for some optimism. But we have to be conservative and not drain all the reserves, and hopefully not ravage our services either.

• The City of Ketchikan is seeking to hire several new leaders, including managers for the City of Ketchikan, Ketchikan Public Utilities, Ketchikan Police Department and the Ketchikan Fire Department. How should the city proceed with filling the city manager and KPU manager positions and what attributes would you be looking for? Please address whether the positions should remain consolidated as they have been since the late 1990s, with one individual managing both entities.

We should always be looking to hire within as much as possible, but I realize it’s difficult to find qualified help here on the island, and our city-residents-only policy makes it even more difficult. First and foremost, they and their applicable family need to seriously want to live in an un-tropical rainforest. I’d rather have a stand-in, than someone who is going to leave us in six months.

The late Mr. Amylon was a rare being. He was able to take on the extra duties of utility manager, not because he had so much utility experience, but because he saw a problem and he figured it out. I’m not interested in just hiring someone who has marked off some boxes, I want someone with demonstrated skill at solving problems. I like to think I am that type of person, so I know what to look for.

Ketchikan is always one big problem waiting to happen, and we often have to depend on our own wits to solve this or that. I think it might be impossible to find someone who can do both jobs. We should probably keep that option open, but I’m not sure how that will work with the headhunters. I don’t want to waste time trying to find a magic golden needle unless we can search for a couple serviceable sewing machines in the same haystack.

We could sure use a bulk deal on headhunters to find qualified management personnel for all our openings, I know that.

• Prior to the pandemic and development of the cruise dock in Ward Cove, improving the city’s port infrastructure was a long-running topic for the City Council. What should the city be considering regarding port infrastructure now — and for the long term?

I think improving the port infrastructure is a moot point right now. It seems crazy to me that we are even talking about it. I know many people are upset about Ward Cove “taking” business away from the city, but the city dock was running out of space, and a group of good businessmen saw an opportunity and jumped on it. It’s not the government’s job to provide every service that a city needs to create a vibrant economy, and the city should not be taking away business opportunities from the private sector.

We need to be thinking about expanding our economy, not monopolizing it. The city is limited on what it can do with port proceeds. The private sector can invest and innovate much more readily, thereby being more efficient at spreading wealth and creating jobs. This was in evidence with the shrewd Ward Cove Group move. The reason we sold the Ward Cove property was so that someone could take advantage of the location and put it back on the tax rolls. I believe that has been accomplished.

Right now, the city needs to focus on more pressing issues.

• Discussions about how to best support the community members experiencing homelessness are underway. What are your ideas for the best way to move forward?

The homeless situation is not just about people who are poor and down on their luck. For many, it’s a mental health issue. These folks are just not able to assimilate into what we call a normal life. It’s great that we are creating a safe place for them to stay, but where does it stop? They need more access to mental health professionals. And here we go again about getting qualified people to move to Ketchikan.

I also think the homeless, like most people, need a way to feel like productive members of society. They need a stair-step to escaping the mire. I would like to see some cottage industry in the homeless shelter. Couldn’t they paint totem poles or something, with half the money going to the shelter? It would be a way to make them feel like they have some worth in society and not just have them sitting around staring at the walls wondering how long before bedtime or their next meal. Opioid addicts are caught in a similar mire. They are hiding away in their little cocoons of numbness and don’t even know that they are dying physically and mentally. That goes for many hard-core alcoholics, too.

We need to support the police to catch drug dealers, create more halfway houses, and find more mental health professionals to help the vulnerable stay safe while they find a way to cope with a reality that doesn’t involve dangerous life-sucking drugs and alcohol.

Jai Mahtani

Occupation: Owner of the Gold Rush on Front Street since 1997.

Time of residence in Ketchikan: I have been in Ketchikan for 26 years as a full-time resident.

Previous elected office(s): None.

• Introductory statement: I, jai Mahtani, seek the three-year seat on the Ketchikan City Council this Oct. 5th. I bring 30-plus years of business experience and 26 years of experience in Ketchikan working in the tourism industry, which will help me bring a business prospective to help make policy for the city. I also come with a degree in business.

• The Ketchikan City Council will start work soon on the 2022 budgets for the City of Ketchikan and Ketchikan Public Utilities — an effort that will follow nearly two years of pandemic effects on revenues and will be undertaken while facing an uncertain future. What budget priorities do you recommend for city services, staffing and revenues?

The budget priorities for me are finding the revenue to keep the city employees employed and making sure none of the services are sacrificed for the people of Ketchikan and visitors. Our police, our firefighters, our public works employees and departments are funded to continue providing Ketchikan with the top quality services.

• The City of Ketchikan is seeking to hire several new leaders, including managers for the City of Ketchikan, Ketchikan Public Utilities, Ketchikan Police Department and the Ketchikan Fire Department. How should the city proceed with filling the city manager and KPU manager positions and what attributes would you be looking for? Please address whether the positions should remain consolidated as they have been since the late 1990s, with one individual managing both entities.

The late city manager was a unique individual. The community and I want to see the two departments separated, with KPU and the city each having an individual leader. I would like to see the city form a committee and hire an expert headhunter to attract several resumes of qualified people from within Ketchikan and the nation, vet each individual, interview them, and pick the best of the best to lead our city and the various departments for decades. We also have to make sure their families will want to make Ketchikan their home.

• Prior to the pandemic and development of the cruise dock in Ward Cove, improving the city’s port infrastructure was a long-running topic for the City Council. What should the city be considering regarding port infrastructure now — and for the long term?

Regardless of the Ward Cove dock, we have to fix our downtown docks and expand them so we can accommodate the larger ships that are replacing the smaller ships. If we don’t do that, we will lose the downtown economy and revenue to Ward Cove. Also, we cannot put ourselves in debt, but work with our cruise partners to fund this expansion. They are willing to help without handing them or any one the port.

• Discussions about how to best support the community members experiencing homelessness are underway. What are your ideas for the best way to move forward?

The best way to move forward is first addressing the mental health of the homeless people. They are not going to seek help; we need as a city to form mental health teams and go reach out to these people on their terms, start a conversation, get them help and then the next step would be to find housing and work for them. It is going to be a long process, but it is urgent and needs to be done. They are members of our community.

Bronson Olson

Occupation: Manager/Buyer/Merchandizer.

Time of residence in Ketchikan: 10 years.

Previous elected office(s): None elected, only volunteer offices.

• Introductory statement: Hello everyone! My name is Bronson Olson, and I will be running for Ketchikan City Council as a write-in candidate. My main goal as a councilman is to do whatever I can to make Ketchikan thrive as a prosperous community. We have the know-how and the determination, all we need is a new way of thinking to make things happen. I hope to bring this new way of thinking to the table in order to help Ketchikan grow and become better than ever.

I have many ideas on how we as a community can address the number of social and economic hurdles in front of us. We can have a growing, booming economy without sacrificing the beautiful image of Ketchikan that locals and people from all over the world admire.

This is what I offer the people; a growing economy, while still being the same vibrant Ketchikan we all love; and focusing on the needs of the community in order to create the ideal place for all to enjoy. In order to achieve this goal, we will look at new innovative ideas for economic growth and social wellness. For revenue, we need to create a year-round sustaining economy with new technologies, industries, and new places of interest that all may enjoy. For the people, we need to invest in entertainment establishments, restaurants, public open space venues, transportation, schools, infrastructure and social services, plus whatever else the community may need to thrive.

• The Ketchikan City Council will start work soon on the 2022 budgets for the City of Ketchikan and Ketchikan Public Utilities — an effort that will follow nearly two years of pandemic effects on revenues and will be undertaken while facing an uncertain future. What budget priorities do you recommend for city services, staffing and revenues?

The most important priority of any community is safety. We need to continue to support police, fire, and EMS. Without these core services, we are vulnerable to devastating consequences. Other key city services include public health, public works and information technology.

Public health is vital, especially as we combat COVID-19 and its ripple effects on mental health. We cannot bleed a service that is in place to watch over our well-being.

Public works is crucial for our way of life. Many depend on water, sewer and garbage services to keep their households functioning. Not only do we need services many of us rely on, but we also need our infrastructure maintained, lest we go back to dirt and gravel roads in town.

As for information technology, we can already see the havoc being caused around the world with cyber security issues. We need to make sure that all of our technology systems are secure and robust enough to defend against external threats. Especially with our new underwater fiberoptic cable in place, the issue of cyber security is imperative. This new era of technology is ever charging forward, and we need to keep with the times if we want to stay relevant in the advancing world.

On the issue of staffing, I believe that we need to fill all vacant positions for crucial services regarding police, fire, and EMS. We also need to look at positions that have a direct effect on the people’s quality of life in the community.

• The City of Ketchikan is seeking to hire several new leaders, including managers for the City of Ketchikan, Ketchikan Public Utilities, Ketchikan Police Department, and the Ketchikan Fire Department. How should the city proceed with filling the city manager and KPU manager positions and what attributes would you be looking for? Please address whether the positions should remain consolidated as they have been since the late 1990s, with one individual managing both entities.

I believe that the assistant managers should have the opportunity to advance and take on the roles of city manager and separately Ketchikan Public Utilities manager.

In the same way, the next senior officer for both police and fire departments should be offered the positions. It is much easier to train down than up. If any one of those individuals choose not to accept the position, then we will have to look outside of those departments for individuals who would best fit those open seats.

In regard to police and fire, the candidates being sought need to be open minded. We have a diverse community, and the individuals who are supposed to be in charge of keeping the community safe need to be able to adapt and cooperate.

As for the separation of city manager and Ketchikan Public Utilities manager, this is a must. If we want our town to grow and thrive, we need someone focused on the operations of the city. If we want our town to function properly, we need a person who is solely focused on making sure that things are running smoothly, and the essentials are operating at peak efficiency.

• Prior to the pandemic and development of the cruise dock in Ward Cove, improving the city’s port infrastructure was a long-running topic for the City Council. What should the city be considering regarding port infrastructure now — and for the long term?

Currently and continually, the downtown cruise ship docks are the lifeblood of the economy. There isn’t enough alternative economic revenue to keep the city operating without the tourism industry. To maintain our economy due to our location as a tourist destination, we need to invest in the infrastructure of our docks.

One of the main reasons why the Ward Cove docks were created, was so that they can support the larger ships that are 1,200 feet long. The new 1,200-foot ships are what the cruise ship industry is aiming towards. This is where we fumbled the ball.

We have the capability to expand our docks to accommodate larger ships, but this doesn’t mean we have to have more ships either. Expanding the docks just gives us the opportunity to host the larger cruise ships. Just having the capability to have a larger ship park downtown lets us compete with the Ward Cove dock.

• Discussions about how to best support the community members experiencing homelessness are underway. What are your ideas for the best way to move forward?

The topic of homelessness is prevalent in every community, small and large. Every community has approached this issue in different ways. Some communities have made homelessness illegal through legislation, by banning “public camping,” and others have tried to support those experiencing homelessness through monthly payments. The most common answer to the issue of homelessness is the construction of more homeless shelters. To me, none of these are a long-term solution to solving the issue of homelessness.

The only way anyone is going to manage and hopefully end the societal homelessness issue is addressing that the issue is real, the people are real and our methods to fix this disaster that is growing out of control, must be real. Our solution must be real in the sense that, first we need to ask, why is this individual experiencing homelessness in the first place? Is it due to mental health, substance abuse, lack of income (i.e., employment), or lack of housing opportunity?

Once we identify the base of the issue then we can begin to build a foundation on which the individual can begin to be reincorporated into public society and become a contributing member once again. Not saying that this will work for everyone.