The voting is over in Skagway, where there will soon be two newly-elected assembly members, a different face on the school board, and where one important ballot question is still too close to call.
“There are certainly a couple of issues that are very prominent on everyone’s mind,” says resident Jan Tronrud.
As she left the polls at Skagway City Hall, her mind wasn’t on just one issue. She wants assembly candidates that are grounded in the community and have a long-term vision for it.
“I’m really looking for a broader-based interest in the community long-term future for the town,” says Tronrud. “More than just the port, more than just senior housing, more than any particular issue.”
There are still 93 absentee ballots left to count, so the results are not yet certain. But when the polls closed Tuesday, preliminary results show Orion Hanson and Tim Cochran winning the most votes in the assembly race. It’s a three-year term for each of those seats.
Newcomer Orion Hanson came out on top, with 205 votes.
“I’m excited, nervous and humbled by the support of Skagway voters,” says Hanson.
Hanson is a general contractor and chair of the Skagway Planning and Zoning Commission.
“I think that I can be a positive person on the assembly to be proactive and be transparent and represent the town of Skagway,” says Hanson.
Transparency has been an important point for Hanson throughout the assembly race. It’s something he’s said is important in going forward with discussions about the port. That was a big issue on last year’s ballot. In 2015, voters rejected a tidelands lease extension between the municipality and the White Pass and Yukon Route Railroad. It’s not up for vote again this year, but the future of the waterfront is definitely still on voter’s minds. Here’s resident Lori Bevel.
“We need to pick good leaders so when that does go forward we can trust the choices they’re going to make for us,” says Bevel.
The waterfront is a priority for incumbent Tim Cochran too. Cochran works for Petro Marine Services and with 192 votes, he’s earned enough support for a third term on the assembly.
“I’m honored that the voters trust me to serve again,” says Cochran. “It’s a pleasure to serve and I think we should all try to give back to our community.”
There was one other candidate on the ballot. But with 144 votes, David Brena, a real estate developer who ran a write-in campaign last year, was unable to secure a seat. Brena declined to comment until the absentee ballots are counted and the results are certified later this week.
A fourth candidate launched a last-minute write-in campaign just before the deadline on Friday. Spencer Morgan is currently finishing his first term on the assembly but did not earn enough votes to retain his seat. There were 124 write-in votes counted, but who earned each of them is unknown. Write-in votes are only tallied for individuals if they come in first or second.
Beyond the assembly race, there is no clear answer in the question of whether the borough should use a $6 million bond to fund a new senior center and housing project. There is currently no permanent senior center in Skagway. Right now, there are 180 votes for the bond and 186 against.
“I’m a little sad about it being close,” says I don’t like to see the town split fifty-fifty on an issue like this.
Michael Baish is the chair of the Senior Ad Hoc Committee. Earlier this year, they asked the assembly for funding for the project and the assembly proposed the bond. That approach could mean increased property taxes for the community. Baish says the project will get done one way or another.
“We worked four years on it and the town has no senior facility and we need one,” says Baish. “The need hasn’t gone away. If there is some way to fund it we will find the money.”
But, he is still definitely hoping the final results come out in favor of this bond.
Also on the ballot were two open school board seats. One holds a three-year term and one a two-year term. Newcomer Jaime Bricker earned the most votes, 298, enough to win the longer term. Bricker says she’s honored by the suppport and looking forward to being more immersed in her children’s education.
“But I’m also excited about working with a great group of people,” says Bricker. “I feel like I’ve got a whole new slew of resources at my fingertips and I’m just really excited to work with the existing school board members.”
Incumbent Darren Belisle came in second with 236 votes. Belisle has been on the school board since 2002 and says he looks forward to serving for a couple more years. Mark Smith, who was running to retain the seat he was appointed to last year, didn’t make the cut, with 114 votes.
Voter turnout was down this year from last, at around 43 percent of registered voters. Last year, it was around 50 percent.
Beyond the ballot issues, voters in Skagway talked about concerns over affordable and available housing, and getting this small community through the state budget crisis.
Election results are set to be certified on October 6 and newly elected officials will take office on October 10.