Former Haines Borough mayor Stephanie Scott was the favorite choice out of seven applicants for an empty assembly seat. The five sitting assembly members met as a committee Thursday to hear from residents interested in the vacancy. Although they had some differences in opinion, the majority of the assembly gave preliminary endorsement to Scott.
The assembly had a host of choices to fill the vacant seat. Seven people expressed interest. Many of them would be brand new to borough government. But the majority of the assembly members wanted someone with experience for the short-term appointment.
“I think it’s important for us to find somebody that will help the assembly, which is basically a somewhat new assembly.” said Tresham Gregg.
Gregg was not the only one to note that Mike Case, the assembly member who resigned recently, was also the most experienced. Like Stephanie Scott, Case is a former borough mayor.
“I looked to Mike when I’m sitting here and I’m missing him already,” said Heather Lende. “Because he had the mayoral experience, he had the code experience. He makes decisions that are unpolitical, really.”
Lende said Scott was similar to Case in experience and neutrality.
Scott emphasized her background when she spoke to the assembly.
“My interest in helping you is based on my knowledge of Haines Borough Charter and Haines Borough Code,” Scott said. “Because it’s absolutely essential [borough code] govern your actions.”
Lende, Gregg and Ron Jackson favored Scott. But Margaret Friendenauer and Tom Morphet had different first choices. Friedenauer advocated for James Hart but said she would still support Scott.
“James encompasses a lot of aspects of the community that people have asked us to consider, which is not only longevity but youth,” Friedenauer said. “And a connection to the community that I don’t have because I’ve only been here seven years.”
Hart is 27 years old with no Haines Borough government experience. But he is involved in Native organizations, including the Chilkoot Indian Association and the Central Council of Tlingit and Haida Indian Tribes.
“[I would] be able to help with the assembly be able to understand Native issues or the thought process,” Hart said. “The area that we live on is a traditional area for the Tlingit. My grandpa was part of that culture.”
Tom Morphet spoke up for one of the assembly’s biggest critics, Don Turner Jr.
“I think this is one of the most dysfunctional assemblies I’ve seen since I’ve been here,” Turner said. “I don’t think you guys pay attention to the public that much.”
Turner is leading a recall campaign against Morphet, Lende and Gregg.
“I think that Mr. Turner represents a view that is a constituency in our community,” said Morphet. “I think we would present ourselves to the community as welcoming to all if we appointed Mr. Turner.”
The assembly won’t make a final decision on the appointment until its meeting on May 30. But as a committee, they voted 4-1 to recommend Scott. Morphet was the only one opposed. He said he wanted to talk to more members of the public before he made up his mind.
The other assembly applicants were Judy Erekson, Andrew Gray, Sean Maidy and Paul Nelson.
Toward the end of the meeting, several residents spoke in support of Scott’s appointment. But Haynes Tormey said he’s concerned about losing the perspective Mike Case represented.
“He was elected into that seat based off a platform that he represented,” Tormey said. “And I didn’t hear any talk about putting somebody back into that seat that was closely aligned with what he believed.”
The applicants not chosen for the temporary appointment will have the opportunity to run for election in October. The person who is appointed will only serve about five months.
If Scott took over the vacancy, she said she does not plan run for office in the fall.