Four seek to serve as Dillingham mayor

Sep 29, 2015

KDLG News puts questions to Holly Johnson, Tracy Hightower, Dave Gladden, and Alice Ruby ahead of next Tuesday's election.

 

Here's the link to audio from Friday's debate

Dillingham will elect a mayor next Tuesday. Current Mayor Alice Ruby, city council members Holly Johnson and Tracy Hightower and political outsider David Gladden are all running for the office. And all four say they’re concerned about the city’s finances in the years to come.

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Credit KDLG News

David Gladden

David Gladden has lived in Dillingham for about 37 years, and has worked as an airplane mechanic, bush pilot, x-ray tech and landlord. He has not held public office.

Why are you running?

Well, I can see some things happening in the community that probably ought to be done a different way and so I’m just interested in promoting small business and making Dillingham a favorite place for people to move to, maybe, start increasing the population instead of decreasing.

What do you want to accomplish?

Listen to the people. What do the voters want. How big of a government do they want, or small. I’m open to suggestions to make it as efficient as possible.

Any other goals?

I’d rather not say at this point I guess. We’ll just see how things work out for the election. I think the main thing is just to be in tune with the voters, what they want. That’s who is important here, it’s not me, its the voters.

What do you think is the main issue facing the city?

Probably the reduced funding resources. We’re seeing that at the state level. It’s coming, and these aren’t fun topics to think about but we’re going to have to be creative and think outside the box and do what we gotta do to make it happen.

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Credit KDLG News

Tracy Hightower

Tracy Hightower has lived in Dillingham for 11 years and is store team lead at the Alaska Commercial Co. He has served on Dillingham’s city council.

Why are you running?

I think it’s time we need a change. I’d like to make Dillingham a much more sustainable community. A little more…we need to make the cost of living a lot more palatable for more people. A lot of people are leaving town because they can’t afford to live here. There’s quite a few people who would move here if they could afford it. And a lot of that has to do with our high tax rates.

What do you want to accomplish?

First and foremost I’d like to lower a lot of our tax rates, and I’d like to bring more business in to town.

Any other goals?

At this time, not really. There are other issues we need to confront – there’s the drug issue, there’s other issues, city spending is out of control. I’ve been working the last four years trying to slow that down, the spending, and I’d like to pursue that further.

What is the main issue facing the city?

I would say the combination of the high tax rates and the spending.

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Credit KDLG News

Holly Johnson

Holly Johnson has lived in Dillingham since 2007 and is a benefits specialist for Bristol Bay Native Association. She is currently on the city council.

Why are you running?

I think Dillingham has just reached a point where we need to have some different leadership in place.

What do you want to accomplish?

The first thing that I would really like to see accomplished is the city of Dillingham establish better working relationships with the other agencies in town and also start establishing stronger and better working relationships with our local tribe.

Any goals?

I have a lot of goals. I think that spending needs to be looked at. I think that bringing our property values into line so that we can start reconsidering the 13 mil rate on real property taxes is imperative. As far as marijuana issues go, I think that’s something the community needs to decide on, I don’t think that’s the city council. So that would be another goal, to really step and make sure that commercial sale of marijuana is handled properly.

What is the main issue facing the city?

Honestly, I don’t think there is just a main issue facing the city. I think there’s quite a few issues facing the city. Budget, management, accountability, responsibility, communicating with the community members, having different types of forums besides the city council encouraging community members to talk to their city council members, just having more of an open door. But as far as having one single main issue, there’s not just one issue.

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Credit Courtesy Alice Ruby

Alice Ruby

Alice Ruby has lived in Dillingham for about 48 years, and is the director of economic development and brokerage at Bristol Bay Economic Development Corp. She is the current mayor, has served on the city council, sat on the planning commission and was the chair of the former Bristol Bay Coastal Resource Service Area Board.

Why are you running?

I feel like there are some things I would like to finish, and think that the next three years are going to be real pivotal for the community with the economy where it is and some of the projects we’ve begun where they are and I just would like to be a part of seeing those through.

What do you want to accomplish? Any goals?

I would like to see Dillingham, the city, develop a fiscal plan for the next few years. We’re sort of at a threshold, again, I know we get here every few years with our dependence on state money right now and our own resources being pretty challenged right now, so I would like us to put together a fiscal plan in the next few years. I would like to be involved in following through with the annexation petition, particularly because I’ve been a supporter of it, but also very sensitive to our neighbors and working with them. Many of them are family and friends of Dillingham so I’d like to be part of seeing that through and seeing that through in a way where we retain some of those relationships.

What do you think is the main issue facing the city?

I think for the next few years its financial, definitely. We have some infrastructure, buildings and equipment, that are not in terrible shape, but they’re going to need attention and part of developing a fiscal plan is sort of taking care of what we’ve got, but also figuring out what our direction will be with like the marijuana legalization, that’s another issue we’ll probably be involved in for the next couple of years. And I think education funding is going to bring pressure on the city. It’s a pretty critical service that we have and it’s something that I think we’ll end up addressing in the next couple of years.

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The City of Dillingham election is Oct. 6.

The Dillingham High student council is planning a debate Friday evening in the middle school gym in conjunction with KDLG News; questions for the candidates can be sent to news@kdlg.org. Candidates for city council and school board will also be on the ballot. 

Voters on the eastside head to the polls Oct. 6 as well. In the Bristol Bay Borough, two seats are up on the borough assembly and school board, and there are three candidates for each. For Lake and Peninsula Borough, it’s mostly incumbents running for re-election, with one contested school board seat.