David Seaward speaks of his life
Heidi Zemach | For the LOG
Who is Seward City Mayor David Seaward, this political neophyte whose name, ironically, closely resembles the name of the city he now represents? This unknown religious man who lives in a tumbledown shack of a home about a block from city hall, with hand-painted signs on his gate that say “Love God. Love Life. Follow Your Dreams.” — his own personal mantra. This 36-year-old mayor with few local connections or family roots in Alaska who proudly calls the Seward Community Library, with its free Internet service, his office?
He is a Republican, Tea-Party-supporting fiscal conservative, who also happens to agree with many of Ron Paul’s Libertarian ideas, as well as those of the Dali Lama. A part-time laborer and security guard who fights a gambling addiction, andidentifies with the poor and underprivileged of Seward because he has walked in their shoes.
David Seaward, formerly named Chule, or “Waterfall” in Tibetan, was born 36 years ago in Tibet to parents who were nomads. They were originally Buddhist and members of the very lowest tribe of the country’s 12 distinct castes, Seaward said. Country people who had no land and owned no animals, they traveled to Nepal, the largest available city during the cold wintertime. They brought with them Chule, and his sister Rewa who had Down Syndrome. In Nepal they lived and begged for food on the streets. They may possibly have switched to Christianity after meeting his adoptive mother, a life-long missionary, while David was very young, but he’ll never know, Seaward said. For lack of health care, they both died of treatable medical conditions — his mother of food poisoning, his father of rabies.
Chule was adopted at age four by Pamela Jo Seaward, an American Christian missionary who had helped his parents and also adopted his sister. He was raised in her large, poor missionary household, where she routinely took in widows and orphans she encountered on the streets. Rewa died at age 25. Pamela Jo Seward is still alive and living in California. She never married, giving Seaward the experience of living in a single-parent household.
Seaward changed his name to David, after David Banner, of the “Incredible Hulk” television show, of which he was a great fan. He grew up in Nepal and Malaysia, attending missionary schools through the 12th grade. Seaward’s first language was Tibetan. He subsequently learned Nepalese, Malaysian and finally English, which he learned from his mother and at school. His junior high and high-schooling was in Malaysia. He graduated high school in 1993 from the Dalat International School in Malaysia, which had students from all countries and an American-school curricula.
Upon graduation, Seaward moved to America, and briefly attended Vanguard University in Costa Mesa, Calif ., his mother’s home state. It ended abruptly during his first semester, however, after Seaward “fell in with the wrong crowd,” and developed what would become a life-long gambling addition. He dropped out of college, never to return. Seaward describes the adrenaline-pumping rush of playing card games like Texas Hold-Em, going to casinos, or participating in other get- rich-quick opportunities. The gambling addiction creates a feeling of need similar to what alcoholics feel, he said. Over the course of his adult life, gambling has severely affected his ability to hold down jobs, or to create the lasting financial stability that he feels he would need to get married, settle down and raise a family, although he is “seriously looking” for the right woman, Seaward said.
Since moving to Seward in 2003, Seaward has held several labor jobs in construction. He was a counselor at SeaView Community Services, and worked as a security guard, including a position on the North Slope, which he worked two weeks on/two weeks off. He currently has a part-time security job with Doyon Universal Services, in Anchorage. It enables him to be more available to get to important meetings in Seward, or elsewhere, he said.
Prior to purchasing his home in 2005 for $55,000, through owner-financing, the mayor spent a few summers camping out on a tent on the beach front and in his car off Exit Glacier Road while working three jobs and hoping to save up enough money to move into an apartment year-round.
He has an affinity for the plight of Seward’s homeless, unemployed and underemployed population, and for those simply struggling to improve their lives. He feels he understands Seward from their perspective.
Addressing concerns raised by some locals that he seems intolerant of people with religions other than Christianity, Seaward says he loves America for its freedom of religion doctrine. He points out that his real parents in Tibet were Buddhists, and that he spent his early years living among Buddhists and Hindus. Seaward also has tremendous respect for the Dalai Lama, the exiled spiritual leader of Tibet, and hopes to meet him some day in person.
During his six months as mayor, during council meetings, and over the course of a 3-hour interview with the LOG, Seaward never expressed his own religious philosophy except for the signs on his house, and for being unable to hide the obvious admiration he has for his mother and her missionary work.
Some political observers believe Seaward deliberately isolates himself from his colleagues on the council, despite their repeated attempts to help him understand his duties as mayor, and to bring him into the fold. They say that he has been difficult to work with, and often seems to have a chip on his shoulder, or feel that others are against him. On the contrary, he holds no ill feelings toward council members Bob Valdatta or Ristine Casagranda, despite their vote for his public censure, nor toward Assistant City Manager Ron Long, whom he greatly admires, Seaward said, rather, it is the other council members that are obviously against him.