Dillingham Municipal Election 2020: City Council

Sep 18, 2020

The municipal election is October 6, with two City Council seats up for grabs. Kaleb Westfall is running against Aksel Buholm, and Curt Armstrong is running unopposed. 

When people vote, they get a sticker.
Credit KDLG/Brian Venua

Dillingham’s municipal election is three weeks away with two seats open in the city council and school board. Two familiar names are running for city council seat C — Aksel Buholm and Kaleb Westfall.

Buholm was elected to the council in 2017. He resigned in December due to work-related travel; he's an equipment operator for Local 302, a labor union of operating engineers. His last council meeting was in February.

“I got a job where I went north all the time and couldn’t attend the meetings," he said. "I prefer to be face-to-face at these meetings, reading them, seeing how they react. I felt I wasn’t serving my position like I intended.”

But COVID-19 restrictions mean that council members now meet telephonically, and makes remote participation accessible. 

Buholm said he’s been impressed with how the city has handled COVID-19. 

If elected to the council this October, he said he will push for more investment in infrastructure. He pointed out that the city needs a new fire hall downtown, as well as additional work on roads around town. 

“I would like to take some of the money coming off tobacco tax and invest in infrastructure and upkeeps; Nerka," he said. "Some of the smaller roads that we need to invest some money into — drastically.”

After Buholm stepped away from the council, Kaleb Westfall applied to replace him and was appointed to the seat in March. Westfall was a candidate in last year’s election, but he lost to Bill Rodowalt.

The City Council held several additional meetings this spring to determine health and safety measures for Dillingham residents, travellers, and seasonal workers ahead of the fishing season. In those meetings, Westfall challenged many of the initial ordinances. 

“I had a lot of no votes," he said. "And it wasn’t because I holistically don't believe in it. I had a lot of no votes because I holistically want it to be better and we all agree it could be better. So let’s not pass this now, let’s sit here another 40 minutes, or let’s have another special meeting, get this as good as we can.”

Westfall said he wanted to ensure the council was balanced and careful in its approach to COVID-19 legislation.

“And I know sometimes I was misunderstood," he said. "But to make sure everyone was heard, all options were explored and it wasn’t just, ‘Yeah hurry up let’s get something on paper and we’ll fix it later.’ It just doesn’t work. Especially with the high stakes and severity, it’s just not a smart idea to create policy.”

Westfall said that if he’s elected, he wants to focus on completing the rest of the city’s current infrastructure projects and continue his work with COVID-19 relief funding. He’s also interested in working on upgrades to the harbor, the airport and boat ramps at Wood River and Kanakanak beach.

Curt Armstrong is running unopposed for City Council seat D. He echoed Westfall and Buholm’s desires to improve city infrastructure across the board. 

In-person absentee voting at City Hall is September 21, through October 5 by appointment only, by calling 907-842-5217. The deadline to apply for absentee by mail voting is September 26. 

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