Bethel’s City Council Candidates

by K.J. Lincoln

The City of Bethel will hold a Regular Election Tuesday, October 3, 2017 for the purpose of electing candidates to the City Council and voting on Proposition Question 1. This year we have 8 candidates vying for 6 open seats on the Bethel City Council. Here is some information about who is running and why. Quyana for your responses.

Bethel City Council Candidates

Name: Leif Albertson

Age: 38

Family: I live with my wife Jennifer Dobson and our two children Atlas (3) and Astrid (1)

How did you choose Bethel to be your home and for how long have you been here?

I moved to Bethel in 2002 to work for Public Health nursing. After 2 years, I left the state for grad school, but Bethel still felt like home, so I returned and I’ve been here since.

Do you have any prior city government/commissions/committee experience?

I have served 2 terms on the Bethel City council. Before I was on council I was chair of the Energy Committee. During my time on council I have served on the Finance Committee.

What would you like to tell the voters about yourself that will help them choose you when they go to the polls?

I would like voters to know that I bring a good blend of education, experience and hard work to the position. Over the years I’ve gotten to know this community very well. Throughout 4 years on city council I’ve gained a lot of experience with the nuts-and-bolts issues that keep a city running, such as the budget process and personnel management. Further, I have an educational background that includes formal training in topics such as accounting and human resource management. This affords me the ability to work closely with administration on technical issues such as budgets and workplace policies.

I also bring some relevant skills from my professional life. I am a faculty member at UAF and I am a Registered Sanitarian. I have a broad base of training in topics such as drinking water systems, solid waste management and air quality. This helps me to understand the technical and logistic issues involved with the basic services the city provides. For example, I work with the state of Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation regularly and I generally make time to accompany the DEC inspector when he visits our landfill. This kind of hands-on time has helped me to better understand our city’s infrastructure needs.

While much of the work of running a city involves budgets, spreadsheets and code revisions, it is important not to lose touch with what is happening outside the city office. Being active in the community is a critical aspect of council service. One way I stay in touch with the people in our community is by volunteering as a firefighter and paramedic. Meeting people in their homes, at what is often a difficult time, gives me insights into some of the issues we face as a community. Additionally, the Bethel Fire Department is involved in many community outreach events that allow me the chance to hear from people directly.

Another way that I stay in touch with the community is by engaging in family activities around Bethel. My wife and I organize the Bethel Half Marathon each year, I manage the community garden and you’ll find my family using Bethel parks and boardwalks almost every single day.

In summary, I would want the voters of Bethel to know that I know this community very well. I chose to raise my children here. I put a great deal of time into making sure this community is the kind of place families can flourish.

What are the top three priorities that you have in mind for our community, the City of Bethel?

My top priority is public safety. Simply stated, legal alcohol sales has flooded our community with cheap alcohol. Regardless of your stance on the alcohol issue, the fact is that since the liquor store has opened we have seen a substantial and measurable increase in the burden on city services such as ambulance and police calls. We have also heard from non-profit organizations such as Search and Rescue, TWC and Winter House describing the effect that the liquor store has had on them. I have heard from many individuals, particularly parents that do not feel safe using public parks and pathways due to the pervasive presence of inebriants. Ensuring that Bethel is a safe and healthy place for families is incumbent on anyone seated on the council.

Water and sewer infrastructure continues to be an important priority. Efficient operation of water and sewer services not only helps end-users, but also saves the city money. This means expanding the piped water system. Part of that effort involves the institutional corridor, which will expand the piped water system to include several large buildings and a few homes. Currently plans are being evaluated that would expand piped water to the avenues as well as replace corroded pipes in housing.

Finally, due to the YKHC expansion it appears the next few years will be a period of growth for our community. I believe a priority for all members of council will be planning and adapting our infrastructure for this growth. This will affect a wide range of infrastructure needs and the city should be proactive in planning for this.

An ongoing dilemma is the lack of a second road out of Tundra Ridge. What are your plans on how to fix this problem?

Frankly, there are no good solutions to this problem at this time. The effort to reopen the existing “Polk” road has been deadlocked for years and is out of the city’s hands. The city has looked closely at several different scenarios for how to “close the loop” with a new road. All of the proposals are extremely expensive and involve numerous challenges related to property easements and neighborhood impacts. While the City of Bethel has formally requested funding for a road project from the state for many years, it is extremely unlikely, due to Alaska’s financial crisis, that we will see any state money for this project in the near future. It is also worth noting that past proposals to build a road between Tundra Ridge and Blueberry subdivision were met with tenacious objections from Blueberry sub residents.

Unfortunately, until our funding prospects change, our best option at this time is to focus on ensuring that the existing roadways can safely handle the existing traffic.

Thefts, vandalism, and assaults are plaguing our city making it unsafe and frustrating for the victims and for law abiding citizens. What can you do as a council member, if you are elected, to help alleviate or eradicate this problem?

Crime is a personal issue for me. I have been the victim of thefts and vandalism several times in the last year. As a father, I want to do everything I can to make this community a safe place for my family. I do think the city is making efforts to address these issues. Simple solutions such as better lighting and clearing brush have helped to make some areas safer. The recently hired (interim) Police Chief has been very receptive to concerns from the community and has been making efforts to fill positions at our chronically understaffed police department.

As a council member I have pushed to get dispatch data from the police department. Information on where, when and what kinds of crimes are occurring helps our administration address problems as well as helping council hold administration accountable for its anti-crime efforts. Additionally, I think we must work with partner agencies to identify and mitigate underlying factors such as addiction. I also believe that citizens in the community must do their part; work with their neighbors, report crimes and avoid becoming complacent to neighborhood crime.

What is your biggest pet peeve?

Litter.

What are your hobbies, your most favorite thing(s) to do?

Like most of us, I enjoy traditional Alaskan activities such as hunting, fishing and the outdoors. I am a runner and I organize several local sporting events in Bethel. I like motorcycles, shooting, working on my home and family dinners. I enjoy taking classes, learning about new things and teaching others. My absolute favorite thing is spending time playing with my kids at the park or the pool.

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Name: Ayagalria Bradon Brink

Age: 28

Family: My grandparents are Martin and Modesta Prince from here and Irvin and Leona Brink from Kasigluk Akula. My parents are Zack Brink and Martina “Mictee” Brink. I have a fiancée Vanassa “Nessa” Yazzie and many close relatives.

How did you choose Bethel to be your home and for how long have you been here?

I grew up, went to school here and graduated from the GED program when it was with KUC Campus back in 2006.

Do you have any prior city government/commissions/committee experience?

No I don’t have any experience.

What would you like to tell the voters about yourself that will help them choose you when they go to the polls?

Mostly I have been strongly connected to my culture and our values. I have maintained a more healthy lifestyle which I didn’t when I was a teenager. I had a lot of negative behaviors I let go of to be a more positive role model as an adult.

What are the top three priorities that you have in mind for our community, the City of Bethel?

Mainly help our community to heal and grow. Work with our elders to help improve ourselves and our community. Lastly look towards working on our delivery system with water sewer trucks.

An ongoing dilemma is the lack of a second road out of Tundra Ridge. What are your plans on how to fix this problem?

I would look into connecting a new system to help those in that area to not get stuck in traffic.

Thefts, vandalism, and assaults are plaguing our city making it unsafe and frustrating for the victims and for law abiding citizens. What can you do as a council member, if you are elected, to help alleviate or eradicate this problem?

I wouldn’t know who or what is causing the issues, I only have assumption on the age group and I think to help prevent in the future is allowing youth make connections with our elders in our community.

What is your biggest pet peeve?

Our government on a large scale.

What are your hobbies, your most favorite thing(s) to do?

I can’t think of any.

***

Name: Mitchell Forbes

Age: 22

Family: Parents Hugh and Lanette; siblings Lauren and Ethan

How did you choose Bethel to be your home and for how long have you been here?

I moved here when I was three with my family and have been here ever since, only leaving for college.

Do you have any prior city government/commissions/committee experience?

I do not have any municipal experience, but I was active in student government in high school and college. In high school, I worked with the state student government to successfully pass a statewide suicide prevention education bill.

What would you like to tell the voters about yourself that will help them choose you when they go to the polls?

I am from Bethel and I grew up here so I have the community’s best interests in mind. I am young and energetic, ready to bring a fresh perspective onto the council.

What are the top three priorities that you have in mind for our community, the City of Bethel?

Improving public infrastructure including streets and water/sewer, more effective enforcement of drug laws to cut down on Bethel’s opioid epidemic and curbing the effects of alcohol on our community.

An ongoing dilemma is the lack of a second road out of Tundra Ridge. What are your plans on how to fix this problem?

The landowners have shown no interest in negotiating with the City further, so I would look to other access points where the City could build a new road as a capital project item.

Thefts, vandalism, and assaults are plaguing our city making it unsafe and frustrating for the victims and for law abiding citizens. What can you do as a council member, if you are elected, to help alleviate or eradicate this problem?

Our police department needs to be fully staffed and given the resources it needs to thrive. We do now have a new (interim) police chief, but we need to prioritize getting our staff of officers to full capacity.

What is your biggest pet peeve?

Gnats in the summertime!

What are your hobbies, your most favorite thing(s) to do?

I very much enjoy photography and, when the weather cooperates, outdoor activities including kayaking and bicycling.

***

Name: Rick Robb

Age: 59

Family: I have two sons, Richard and Timmy.

How did you choose Bethel to be your home and for how long have you been here?

Bethel has been my home for 29 years now. I first came here for one summer. I immediately fell in love with our community and our region. I have raised my family here, and have made my life and career here. I own a home and have demonstrated a long term commitment to our community.

Do you have any prior city government/commissions/committee experience?

I have had the honor and privilege of serving on the City Council for 8 years now. I have been elected 4 times. I have served as mayor for three years and vice mayor for one year.

I currently finished a term as President of the Alaska Conference of Mayors. I am also a board member for the Alaska Municipal League. These positions have given me a platform to advocate on a state wide level for our community and region.

I first served a term on the old Transportation Commission back in 94-95.

I served two terms on the Parks and Recreation Committee, including past chairman.

I have served as council representative on the Public Safety and Transportation Commission for two years and two years on the Planning Commission, one year on the Energy Committee and one year on the Parks and Recreation Committee. I then served a year as council representative on the Parks, Recreations Aquatic Health and Safety Committee. I am currently the council representative on the Energy Committee.

I have been the council representative to Kuimarvik, A Place to Swim.

What would you like to tell the voters about yourself that will help them choose you when they go to the polls?

I decided to run for re-election to continue to make a positive contribution to our community. As your councilman, I have demonstrated work ethic and commitment to help make our community a better place to live. I have had the honor and privilege to be elected four times to City Council, and am completing my fourth term. I have also served as mayor for the past 3 years.

Bethel has been my home for 29 years. This demonstrates a commitment to our community and a long-term perspective on issues. I have raised my family here, own a home, and am proud to say I live here.

What are the top three priorities that you have in mind for our community, the City of Bethel?

As a member of council, we have numerous issues we work on.

The City of Bethel has to continue to provide basic city services in a more efficient manner. This includes Public safety, Streets and Roads, Water and Sewer, and the Port. These services are the main function of the city government. We need to work aggressively to hire more police officers for public safety.

I would like to see our finance department continue to make improvements. This includes better accountability, better reporting, better collections and more efficient spending. I also am working on reforming our budgeting process, and will continue to work on our processes better.

I have advocated for a 5 year rolling capital plan. I believe we can get a realistic capital plan going, instead of having a new, politically based capital priorities list every year. If we get a realistic, long term plan I believe we can improve our infrastructure, water and sewer services, and roads over time.

An ongoing dilemma is the lack of a second road out of Tundra Ridge. What are your plans on how to fix this problem?

We need to continue to advocate for a road around H-Marker Lake or some other alternate route. I have advocated that this be put on the State Transportation Plan, as well as continue to be a capital priority for our city. I have also advocated for a road through the Donut Hole.

We may get some progress with potential new subdivisions going in around BIA road. It is possible to get a road from Tundra Ridge to BIA with new subdivision development.

Thefts, vandalism, and assaults are plaguing our city making it unsafe and frustrating for the victims and for law abiding citizens. What can you do as a council member, if you are elected, to help alleviate or eradicate this problem?

I have advocating for filling positions in our police department. I have supported changing our pay structure for public safety, which is one step in solving this problem. I did vote to hire our new police chief on at least an interim basis, providing new leadership to the police department.

Some of the new crime we see here may be in response to the heroin epidemic. We must deal with this problem in three ways:

1. Enforcement: the role of the city is Law Enforcement.

2. Prevention: This is best served by school district and social service agencies.

3. Treatment: In my job I work on prevention and treatment. I have worked on development of a heroin treatment program and help administer this program.

What is your biggest pet peeve?

When my football team loses.

What are your hobbies, your most favorite thing(s) to do?

I love life in Alaska. I love hunting, fishing, boating, trapping, and riding a snow machine.

***

Name: Stanley C. Rodgers Sr. (TUNDY)

Age: Over 21

Family: Gotta WIFE

How did you choose Bethel to be your home and for how long have you been here?

BORN AND RAISED HERE. NO CHOICE.

Do you have any prior city government/commissions/committee experience?

CITY COUNCIL 14 YRS. ONC TRIBAL COUNCIL MANY YRS.

What would you like to tell the voters about yourself that will help them choose you when they go to the polls?

Bethel Native Corporation YRS and STILL on the Board.

What are the top three priorities that you have in mind for our community, the City of Bethel?

You’ve heard me and have seen me in action. You make up your own mind. Why no progress?? We are a city manager form of government. Not a strong Mayor or council form of government. We hire a city manager to run the city and mayors and council try and do take over. NO WAY.

Streets and roads – Water sewer, COUNCIL BEHAVIOR.

An ongoing dilemma is the lack of a second road out of Tundra Ridge. What are your plans on how to fix this problem?

Addressed in #7.

Thefts, vandalism, and assaults are plaguing our city making it unsafe and frustrating for the victims and for law abiding citizens. What can you do as a council member, if you are elected, to help alleviate or eradicate this problem?

Council members can suggest but the citizens are the ultimate answer. Get mad and change. Form citizen’s committee.

What is your biggest pet peeve?

Empty roll of toilet paper.

What are your hobbies, your most favorite thing(s) to do?

Hunting , gardening, Do-it-yourself building.

***

Name: Naim Shabani

Age: 34

Family: Wife and two Daughters

How did you choose Bethel to be your home and for how long have you been here?

My family has lived in Bethel since the mid 70’s, in 1999 me and my parents moved here to be closer to our relatives. I have lived in Bethel since then.

Do you have any prior city government/commissions/committee experience?

Yes, I have served on the Public Safety and Transportation Commission since 2014.

What would you like to tell the voters about yourself that will help them choose you when they go to the polls?

I am a small business owner, a property owner and a parent raising two kids in Bethel. I have every interest in seeing this town do well and prosper.

What are the top three priorities that you have in mind for our community, the City of Bethel?

Tundra Ridge road connection, full staffing of the Police Department and zoning more land for development and growth.

An ongoing dilemma is the lack of a second road out of Tundra Ridge. What are your plans on how to fix this problem?

I plan to involve the community to create pressure on our administration to keep Tundra Ridge Road a top priority.

Thefts, vandalism, and assaults are plaguing our city making it unsafe and frustrating for the victims and for law abiding citizens. What can you do as a council member, if you are elected, to help alleviate or eradicate this problem?

Finding solutions to fully staff our Police Department is one of my top priorities. Without having a strong police force it will be tough to alleviate and eradicate crimes. I would also entertain the idea of a neighborhood watch program.

What is your biggest pet peeve?

5:00 pm Bethel traffic!

What are your hobbies, your most favorite thing(s) to do?

I hold both a pilots and motorcycle license. Any free time that I’m able to spend with either of these hobbies, is time well spent for me!

***

Name: Mark Springer

Age: 61

Family: Wife, Juliana, 6 children and 8 grandchildren

How did you choose Bethel to be your home and for how long have you been here?

Moved here from Hooper Bay in 2002.

Do you have an prior city government/commissions/committee experience?

I’ve been involved in local government for many years, beginning in Hooper Bay as City Administrator. I’ve been a member of the City of Bethel Public Safety and Transportation Commission before I first ran for City Council 6 years ago. I served two terms on Council and was Council rep on the Port Commission. I was appointed to fill a Council vacancy several months ago and am Council rep on the Planning Commission. I have served as District 9 Board Member on the Alaska Municipal League.

What would you like to tell the voters about yourself that will help them choose you when they go to the polls?

I try very hard to represent all the people of our very diverse community. I believe that diversity is one of Bethel’s strengths. We live in a unique and now changing environment, which challenges all of us in different ways. There are a variety of interests in Bethel, all of whom deserve a fair hearing, but who cannot all get their way every time and I always recognize the difficulty in making decisions that won’t make everybody happy. But in the end I hope people will say I made the right decision.

What are the top three priorities that you have in mind for our community, the City of Bethel?

Infrastructure like water and sewer and roads; Economic Development, making Bethel a more sustainable community and finally, Quality of Life which includes public safety, livability and opportunity.

An ongoing dilemma is the lack of a second road out of Tundra Ridge. What are your plans on how to fix this problem?

I fully respect the decision of the private property owners to end the long-running trespass on their land. Despite the best efforts of the City there never was a successful resolution. The City has prioritized a new route but that is going to cost a lot of money to accomplish, I expect the Council will continue to seek State funding for this important project.

Thefts, vandalism, and assaults are plaguing our city making it unsafe and frustrating for the victims and for law abiding citizens. What can you do as a council member, if you are elected, to help alleviate or eradicate this problem?

We have to continue to fund the Police Department for staffing and resources to allow them to patrol all of Bethel and not spend most of their time dealing with intoxicated people. A lot of crime seems to be drug related, which remains a high priority issue for the City and Council.

What is your biggest pet peeve?

Sloppy and bumpy roads.

What are your hobbies, your most favorite thing(s) to do?

I’m a ham radio operator, and I like messing around with paracord and knot tying projects. But right now my favorite pastime is Twitter.

***

Name: R. Thor Williams

Age: 50

Family: Joanna-Wife, Tiana and Kayla- Daughters and Sven-Son

How did you choose Bethel to be your home and for how long have you been here?

Bethel became my home in 1992 when I started working for the State of Alaska at the Division of Family and Youth Service (DFYS) now called Office of Children Services (OCS).

Do you have any prior city government/commissions/committee experience?

Starting in 1996 I was elected to Bethel City Council and the past twenty years I have over eight and half years’ experience of being a City Council Member. I was also served on or appointed to the standing committee and commissions of the city council.

What would you like to tell the voters about yourself that will help them choose you when they go to the polls?

The reason that I’m running again for City Council is to make Bethel a safe place to raise our children and families again.

What are the top three priorities that you have in mind for our community, the City of Bethel?

My priorities for our community is to make it safe again for our families to walk and play in the parks again without being harassed by intoxicated persons. Ensure that our City Of Bethel Employees receive a fair contact and work with local services or organizations to ensure that our children have activities to be part of and not become involved with drugs and alcohol.

An ongoing dilemma is the lack of a second road out of Tundra Ridge. What are your plans on how to fix this problem?

The past administration has not followed the direction of the council to plan a road through the middle of our community or what is called the “Donut Hole.” I will work with the present administration to ensure that we continue to resolve this issue for our community.

Thefts, vandalism, and assaults are plaguing our city making it unsafe and frustrating for the victims and for law abiding citizens. What can you do as a council member, if you are elected, to help alleviate or eradicate this problem?

A development of a task force of local community members and Bethel Police Dept. to construct ways to ensure a safer community for all of our residents. Our community may want to look into forming Neighborhood Watch programs because some of the best deterrence is fellow neighbors watching out for fellow neighbor’s property and wellbeing.

What is your biggest pet peeve?

The biggest pet peeve I having is intoxicated persons in front of our businesses and stumbling down our street at all hours of the day.

What are your hobbies, your most favorite thing(s) to do?

I like to volunteer as a Firefighter/EMT for our community to ensure community safety and wellbeing. The biggest reward I receive is being a wrestling coach and watching our youth become better community members.

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Quyana to our city council candidates and best wishes on election day!

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