Two seats on the Skagway Borough Assembly are up for election this October. Terms are ending for Assembly Members Steve Burnham Jr and Jay Burnham. Both will seek re-election. Skagway resident Roger Griffin is running as a candidate in the election as well.
KHNS spoke with Assemblyman Jay Burnham to learn how he got involved in politics and why he is running for assembly once again.
Burnham was born and raised in Skagway. After high school, he joined the military for four years and returned home shortly thereafter. Since then, he hasn’t lived elsewhere aside from spending a year in Baghdad in 2005 with the National Guard. Just before the 2015 municipal elections, Gary Hanson’s seat on the assembly opened up and nobody had filed to run for it. Burnham took the opportunity to get involved.
“The last day, no one had put in their name, so I went ahead and put in my name,” Burnham said. “There were a few issues that were kind of near and dear. One of them, which I seem to be known for, is wanting to expand the rec center to have an aquatic wellness center in it.”
During his time on the assembly, Burnham has worked to bring the aquatic center proposal before Skagway voters. After a few unsuccessful attempts to get the issue on the ballot, the assembly recently approved an advisory vote to gauge residents’ opinions on the proposed project.
The October ballot will pose three questions: Do you support funding of the recreation center expansion? Do you support funding of an expansion to include an aquatic wellness center? And, do you support a one percent sales tax increase to fund the design, engineering and expansion and retirement of general obligation bonds?
Burnham said he wants to keep serving on the assembly because he believes the city is wrestling with some important questions about the future of the port.
“I think it’s a pretty important time in Skagway’s history. In the next few years, a lot of decisions are going to be made on the port. I think with the lease ending and all kinds of different available options for how to go forward with the port—I just wanted to be part of that decision-making body.”
For years the assembly has been dealing with difficult negotiations over a tidelands lease with White Pass & Yukon Route Railroad. Earlier this summer, the railroad and port operator was sold to a joint venture.
When asked how he is feeling about the borough’s relationship with the new owners, Burnham said things are off to a good start.
“I’m looking forward to coming to some sort of an agreement with the new owners. I’m not sure exactly how that agreement will look. I’m excited to hear that they’ve already applied for permits for putting in a floating component at the ore terminal. That’s good that they’re moving forward. I guess they understand it takes a little bit longer for government to move. I think they’re starting out the right way, so we’ll see how it goes.”
Burnham said that based on his record with the assembly if he is elected residents can expect him to keep serving local interests.
“If I am re-elected, people can expect to have me pretty much doing exactly the same kind of job that I am doing, and by saying that I mean giving a perspective of a local living in Skagway year round and being able to put in the two-cents worth of the regular Skagway people.”
KHNS and the Skagway News will be hosting a candidate forum on September 24th at 6 p.m. in the AB Hall in Skagway. Questions for assembly candidates can be submitted by email to email@example.com.
The elections for the Skagway Borough Assembly are October 2nd.