The Haines Borough Assembly is divided on who to appoint to a recently-vacated seat. Three assembly members favored James Hart for Margaret Friedenauer’s former position. But at their next meeting, they’ll need four votes to appoint someone. Whoever is chosen will join the assembly during a period of instability.
Since April, two assembly members resigned their seats for political reasons. Mike Case was fed up after the assembly’s borough manager hiring process. Margaret Friedenauer said a toxic political climate caused her to lose energy for the job.
On top of these resignations, three assembly members are the targets of a recall campaign. Their seats are up for a vote on Aug. 15.
Three young Haines residents want to join the assembly despite the divisiveness. Sean Maidy, Andrew Gray and James Hart put their names in for both Case’s seat and Friedenauer’s. Sally McGuire also handed in a letter of interest for the most recent opening, but she withdrew her application.
Sean Maidy is a 35-year-old apartment complex manager. He’s been in Haines about two years and sees himself as nonpartisan.
“I’m really good at dealing with people, I’m an active listener,” Maidy said. “And I have no problem taking in data from other sources that even conflict with mine.”
Gray also emphasized his ability to listen. He said if he is appointed to the assembly, his focus will be on listening over talking. Assemblyman Tresham Gregg pressed him on that.
“Without speaking and listening to each other, how is it that we’re going to make the best decisions?” Gregg asked.
“Well, I’m newest in town and I would be the youngest on this body,” Gray said. “So I figure it would be my place to speak the least and listen the most. But I agree that hashing stuff out in public is very, very important.”
Gray is a 29-year-old civil engineer who moved to Haines with his family about a year ago. He signed the recall petitions for Tom Morphet and Heather Lende, but not Gregg.
The third candidate is James Hart, a 27-year-old culture camp leader and lifelong resident. Hart has experience in tribal governance. He is on the Chilkoot Indian Association council and serves as a delegate for the Tlingit and Haida Central Council. He also interned in the Alaska Legislature.
“At meetings, everybody might be really at ends,” Hart said. “But you step outside and see one another and you leave it all inside. You don’t bring it with you outside. That’s something I really would like to do myself.”
Assemblyman Gregg asked Hart a question he didn’t pose to the other candidates.
“Is this really what you want to do?” Gregg asked.
“Can I ask a question, is this really what you’d like to do?” Hart responded.
“Well, I’m here,” Gregg said.
“So am I,” Hart responded.
Lende, Morphet and Stephanie Scott wanted to endorse Hart for the vacant seat.
Scott was recently appointed to Mike Case’s former spot.
“I do not see James as such a younger person. He has had a deep experience with governance at the cultural level and his experience in Juneau this winter was profound,’ Scott said. “He understands a lot of what it takes to run a government.”
But Gregg and Ron Jackson shared a concern about Hart. Both were uncertain about his availability. Hart had to leave the meeting early to catch a ferry, and said he would be out for a couple weeks attending cultural activities in other communities.
“I was a little uneasy about that,” Jackson said. “Because the sooner we get six people on here the better.”
Gregg said he favored Maidy for the seat.
The assembly agreed to check in with Hart about his availability and then make a decision at the June 27 meeting. Right now, it looks like Hart has three votes. But a motion needs four votes to pass.
In the meantime, the assembly told all three candidates to prepare for June 27. Whoever is appointed will take their seat that day. The new member will serve until the municipal election in October.