Dillingham City Election 2021: Mayoral candidates

Sep 24, 2021

KDLG heard from the people running for mayor ahead of Dillingham's Oct. 5 election. Absentee and early voting is underway through Oct. 4. Polls are open from 8 a.m. - 8 p.m. on Oct. 5 at Dillingham City Hall.

Dillingham City Council Chambers. Oct. 2020.
Credit Izzy Ross/KDLG

KDLG caught up with the candidates ahead of the mayoral debate for the upcoming election. They shared some of the key issues they would focus on as mayor.

The City of Dillingham is hosting a mayoral debate on Tuesday, Sept. 28, moderated by Mike Davis and Fritz Johnson. The debate will be aired on KDLG 670AM.

The interview segments have been lightly edited for clarity.

Alice Ruby

Credit Courtesy of Alice Ruby

Incumbent Mayor Alice Ruby is running for re-election to the mayoral seat this year. Ruby grew up in Dillingham and has served as mayor of the City of Dillingham since 2006.

Ruby has worked in a variety of roles in the city. She was a volunteer EMT and volunteer firefighter for 15 years, including as the fire chief and rescue squad director. She has also served on numerous boards and councils, including the SAFE Board of Directors, Dillingham Planning Commission and the Southwest Alaska Municipal Conference. Ruby has worked with Choggiung, Ltd., and is currently the Director of Economic Development/Brokerage with BBEDC. 

Ruby shared her own candidate profile with KDLG.

Points of focus:

City assessment

“The recent effort to do the city assessment was something we've talked about, and it's been a great project, and a great product was created. So in the coming term, I think, the council and the mayor -- hopefully, me -- will be working together to address some of the bigger ones. Two of the really large things that I see in front of us are staffing levels and our financial situation.” 

Staffing levels

“Our staffing challenges are not unique just to the city, it just seems to be kind of a region-wide challenge, with every organization recruiting and constantly filling positions. And it really puts a burden on the current staff -- stretches them too thin. It's difficult to figure out how -- every way that we can fix that, the council is going to have to.”

Financial struggles

“We've lost some critical funding sources -- the State of Alaska, primarily -- with our school bond debt reimbursement and other sources, and having to pick up that slack really strains what we're able to do. And that's going to have to be addressed in the coming years. It's probably not something that can be fixed overnight. It's really going to take a thoughtful approach and really drawing the public in as well, so that everybody knows what to expect and what we think the solutions are.”

“There are a lot of other things going on that the city must address on a continuing basis. And COVID just continues to magnify those issues. So working with the council really is kind of a critical role and it's what the mayor will probably do for the whole next term.”

COVID-19

“I believe the city will need to continue the medical declaration, so that we can keep structuring our operations, to make sure that not only the staff are all able to work in a safe and healthy environment, but that the community then can be working in a safe and healthy environment. It's not over. It's not going to be over for a while. We need to still stress vaccination, using care in just day-to-day activities and kind of structuring your lifestyle so that you're always conscious of where you are, who you're with and being safe. And I do see the city having a role in both trying to conduct our operations, but also in kind of education and outreach.”

“In terms of the COVID pandemic, it's just critical that we keep reaching out and working with the other organizations in the region, because we depend on each other so much, whether it's the health corp., the Curyung Tribal Council, our local businesses, local citizen groups. And I think the mayor will continue to have a role in trying to help with that bridge, to maintain it so that we all continue to work together.”

Tracy Hightower

Credit Courtesy of Tracy Hightower

Tracy Hightower moved to Dillingham in 2004, and served on the City Council from 2011 until 2015. He ran for mayor that year, but lost to the current mayor, Alice Ruby. Hightower was elected to the city council again in 2016, and stayed on until 2018, when he resigned, he said, primarily because he didn’t agree on the city’s approach to the budget. He currently works for L&M Suppliers, the Sea Inn Bar and the Willow Tree Bar. 

Points of focus:

City budget

“My reasons for currently running are -- it has mostly to do with the current budget, I didn't like it at all. You should never be running a deficit. The city really needs to look into cutting their spending to keep it in line with what the revenues that they receive are.”

“We constantly have issues with filling positions at the police department… I mean, if they're not going to fill the positions, why keep them in the budget? Goes with other departments within the city too. If you're not going to fill a position, don't budget for it. Keep it out of the budget, and that doesn't affect the general fund at all.”

City taxes

“Real estate tax, personal property tax, sales tax, inventory tax, all those, they need to basically open up the books, look at what changes can be made to those, bring them back to the voters, and let the voters decide which taxes to keep and which to get rid of, basically.”

This quote has been corrected to reflect that Hightower said inventory tax, not employee tax.

COVID-19

“There are people that agree with vaccination, there are people that don't.  There are people that agree with masking, there are people that don't. We should leave it up to them, and we should not be forcing businesses to enforce the city's mandate regarding the masking, especially. Because that basically makes every business that allows people inside to become an agent of the city, and they are not being paid to be agents of the city.”

Credit Courtesy of Steven Carriere

Steven Carriere

Steven Carriere has lived in Dillingham for almost six years. He spent 14 years in the military. He was also the welding program instructor at the University of Alaska Fairbanks Bristol Bay Campus. Carriere is now the refrigeration technician and winter watchman for Peter Pan Seafoods. 

Carriere published his own candidate profile on the Dillingham Trading Post on Facebook. 

Points of focus:

Public works department

“As mayor, I'd like to find out what we can do to assist our public works, give them a good director, and give them a good direction, so that we can provide them the training with the equipment that they have.”

Support for city staff

“Everybody’s saying, ‘The roads are all messed up.’ Yeah, they are. That's because we don't have the manpower, we don't have the people that are trained to -- we don't have extra people trained to back up those people in case they get sick or have family issues. We need to support our city workers. You know, it's easy to complain, say, ‘This is terrible. I can't believe this is happening.’ We need to look at why it's happening and how we as city leaders can fix it or assist the fixing of it.”

“We need to change the opinion of the city shop review and work report, and get that into a more positive note, then show that... this is the training we provide, this is the opportunities we're going to afford you. Where we as senior leaders need… to give them that opportunity, give them some training, show them that there's a upwardly mobile part of being at the city shop, and it's not just some place you fall when you don't go anywhere else. It's someplace you want -- you strive to be.”

COVID-19

“I think it's time to start leaning more on people's decisions, rather than telling them what they're going to do. We should get rid of the COVID mandate with 2020-22, we need to -- we seem to put a lot of power into one single individual [the Dillingham city manager]. And I think that's never a good idea in a society, I think the power should rest squarely on the council. And the individual should have the choice.”

Update: This quote has been updated to reflect that Carriere wants to end Emergency Order 2020-22.

“If you want to wear a mask, please, please wear a mask. If you don't want to wear a mask, don't wear one. If you want a vaccine, you know, as public health officials -- I’m sure they're gonna do everything they can to get the vaccine. If you don't want to get a shot, it's your personal choice not to.”

How to vote:

Dillingham’s municipal election is October 5. Polls are open from 8 a.m. - 8 p.m. in City Hall Council Chambers.

Absentee and early voting is underway through on Oct. 4.

For more on how to vote, visit the City of Dillingham's election page

Absentee voting in person, by mail, by personal representative 
Any qualified voter may vote an absentee ballot through Oct. 4:
    1. If they will be unavoidably absent from their voting precinct on election day; or
    2. If they will be unable to be present at the polls because of a physical disability.
   
    Absentee Voting by Mail Application must be received by Sept 25, 2021.

Contact the author at izzy@kdlg.org or 907-842-2200.