Five candidates run for three city council seats
Seward voters will elect three people to two-year terms on city council on Oct. 2. Five citizens are running to fill the seats. Three of the candidates are currently on the council.
The LOG interviewed each candidate earlier this week.
Asked why he is running for Council, Tim McDonald told the LOG, “It feels like, as a local, that we’re losing control. That there’s only 500 voters. It just seems that everyone caters exclusively to corporate patrons. That’s fine. They are important to the economy, too. But it’s a municipal government beholden to the citizens of Seward first. I think we loose that a little bit.” He added that the corporate interests, “sometimes come in and overwhelm our system. We’re such a small group of voters in a small town with huge assets that are needed by the corporations. That’s mostly our seaport and our resources.”
The growth has to be “tempered with respect for our quality of life. Respect for our environment. And respect for our municipal government,” he said.
“As we go we further and further away from local input. They say ‘We don’t want controversy.’ It’s not about controversy. It’s about keeping it on track for the quality of life for the people that live here. Balanced with economic opportunity. We’re looking at solid growth and it has to be managed,” said McDonald.
Important to McDonald is the quality of life for those who live here. He wants to see quality of life projects (bike paths and the like) developed in tandem with industrial development. He said he is still studying the issues and wants to represent all the people of Seward and get the focus back on the quality of life for people who make their home here and also make it possible for business to expand.
McDonald is a lifelong Alaska resident and graduate of Seward High School. He is a self-employed engineer, a professional mariner and manages real estate. He worked as a commercial fisherman, as well. He has served one term on each the Seward Planning and Zoning Commission and Seward-Bear Creek Flood Service Area Board. Currently he is a business owner and a board member of Cook Inlet Aquaculture Association. A few years ago he ran for Seward mayor.
Kenny Blatchford has been thinking of running for Council for a long time. “I want to try to do good,” he said. “Basically what I want to do is make Seward a better place. It’s a great place to live, but like everything there can be, and there should be, some improvements.”
Infrastructure, quality of life and economic growth are important issues for Blatchford.
“We have to look down the road and see whether our grandkids can live here. Whether they can, or cannot, afford to live here. Sustainable growth is important. Because you can actually plan,” he said.
“I don’t know what kind of management or business plan that the city works on, but I’m from the old school. Management by objective. You have a reality budget and a wish list budget. So you look at the reality one and this is your infrastructure. And you look at the wish list and this is where you would like to be to create sustainable growth,” Blatchford explained.
“Entrepreneurship is awesome. People with dreams, they’re the ones who usually make things happen. The movers and shakers. The city needs to always have a dream. Not just a maintenance plan but a dream plan,” he added. “The city needs to look at ways to help business. And to bring in business. Ultimately the population will benefit.”
About infrastructure he said, “We need to make sure the infrastructure is ready for business increase and population increase. There has to be some way for the city to find affordable energy for us. One of the biggest bills is electricity. The city needs to be looking at alternative energy sources.”
“Are we doing enough for our elders and our youth?” he asked. “The future of Seward is in our youth. Do we want to be a bedroom community for just a half a year to Anchorage? Or do we want to have a city that can sustain itself and it’s citizens year round?”
“I don’t know if the city should really be in the hospital business. We need to look at how much we’re putting into the ambulance corps, which is dearly needed. We need to look at all the public services and make sure that they are going to be sustainable and have sustainable growth for the city overall. And not rely so heavily on sales tax,” he said.
Right now, Blatchford sees a fractured council-mayor-administration. “I think I have a valid chance of helping bring the city — the council, the mayor, the administration — together. To work together,” he said.
Blatchford is a lifetime Alaskan and graduate of Seward High School. After 35 years with the Teamsters Union, he is retired. He’s also fished commercially. Blatchford served as chair of Qutekcak Tribal Council from 1984 to 2000 and was an Alaska Native Federation delegate, he graduated from one of the first EMT classes at Seward Skill Center and went on to serve on Seward Volunteer Ambulance Corps and then as the Emergency Services Coordinator for North Pacific Rim for two years. He’s a founding member of Chugach Regional Resources Commission. He’s served as the local subsistence representative to the Alaska Department of Fish and Game Advisory board, and served two years as a representative to the Native American Fish and Wildlife Society.
Ristine Casagranda is running for council because, “I feel I can do good job of serving the community,” she said. “I like it. It’s fun. I enjoy the council. It’s a nice community. It’s a great adventure. It’s a lot of learning. Insane amounts of learning.”
Asked what issues are important to her, she responded, “First and foremost, is the development of businesses in town. I hope to see a face, from the city’s standpoint, where if a new business comes to town, Seward is the place they want to be. Right now it’s not that easy to do business here.”
Secondly, she said, “Because I have children, I want this to be a place where they want to live and raise their children. Doing all that I can do to be sure that it’s safe and affordable.”
“I think with Coastal Villages (Region Fund) the economic development will move in such a direction,” she added. “If it is everything we’re being told that it is, there are a lot of businesses that will come with that.”
Casagranda is a lifetime Alaska resident and works in the hospitality industry. She studied accounting in college and is currently self employed. Casagranda is on city council for her first term.
Marianna Keil is running for council because, “I enjoy being on council. I’ve always enjoyed serving the public. I like policy. I like the budget things getting involved with that. And hopefully the public thinks I’ve done a good job, but you never know.”
The issues that are important to Keil are economic development, quality of life and infrastructure improvements.
“Economic development is important and we’ve come a long ways with Coastal Villages. I’m hoping to see that though. I think continuity if a good thing for that project,” said Keil.
She said that quality of life is important and that the things she considers important to quality of life are employment, being able to provide for your family, the surroundings, low crime, a safe community in which to raise children and recreational opportunities.
Keil wants to “go forward with infrastructure improvements, because for so many years those lagged because there was no money. And I know people don’t like paying the higher fees — higher prices for electricity. But I think people appreciate the ability to have electricity, when other places don’t. We’re working on electric improvements and also building a new water tank, sludge removal out of our sewer ponds, building new washdown pad at Seward Marine Industrial Center (SMIC).”
She wants to see reliability in Seward’s infrastructure, “so we don’t have to worry about massive failure. We’ve been working on it, so the instances of that are reducing. When the feds started making cuts, it trickled down to the local level and less money was available. It’s going to be local responsibility. That’s a harsh reality.”
Keil is a 23-year Alaska resident and holds a bachelor’s degree in English literature. During Alaska’s legislative session she works as the local Legislative Information Officer. She has also as a worked Domestic Violence/Sexual Assault Coordinator and assistant to the Qutekcak Native Tribe executive director. She has served three terms on Council, 1994-96 and 2008 to present, as well as serving seven years on Seward Planning and Zoning Commission. Keil serves on the Seward Community Health Center board and Domestic Violence/Sexual Assault Advisory Committee, and was president of the 2003 Seward Centennial committee.
Jean Bardarson is running for city council because, “I want to help facilitate Coastal Villages homeporting in Seward.” She has been involved since Coastal Villages first approached the city a few years ago and she has developed relationships with Coastal Villages management, Alaska Industrial Development and Export Authority, and legislators. “I think it’s important to keep that continuity,” she said.
“I want to keep the public involved so the end product is what we can all live with,” said Bardarson.
“The development of SMIC could be a year-round boost to Seward,” she said. “Council needs to move the project forward, keeping in mind all the uses — from beach walkers, commercial boats, fish processors — so that all the users can use the area.”
Bardarson also wants to make sure the research vessel Sikuliaq, being built with National Science Foundation funding and scheduled to arrive in Seward next fall, will remain homeported here. “It’s a long-time project, going back a couple decades, of many UAA personnel and Sewardites, and I want to keep it here,” she said. “There is pressure from other towns to move the ship to their area after the two-year commitment to homeporting in Seward is over.”
Bardarson is a 44-year Alaska resident. She works as a dental hygienist and is a small business owner. She currently serves as a council member (three terms) and vice-mayor. Bardarson also serves as a Community Health Center Board member and formerly served on the Providence Advisory Board.