The Seward Phoenix Log - News of the Eastern Kenai Peninsula since 1966

By Wolfgang Kurtz
LOG Editor 

Council race features familiar faces


Wolfgang Kurtz | The Seward Phoenix LOG

Meet the Candidates night lined up all four competitors for the three council seats available in the upcoming Oct. 1 City of Seward election.

Four candidates are running for three open seats on the Seward City Council in an election to be held Oct. 1. Of the candidates three are incumbents and the fourth, David Squires, is the recently retired longtime chief of the Seward Fire Department. Within the community, all of the candidates are well-known and have few, if any, detractors.

In addition to the questionnaire answers printed in this edition, The LOG spoke to the candidates about their background and intentions for a possible term of office. The LOG was unable to arrange an interview with David Squires by deadline.

Vanta Shafer

Alongside mayoral aspirant Jean Bardarson, Vanta Shafer is a returning candidate for Seward City Council who names former Seward civic leader Margaret Branson as an inspiration. She recalls that Branson was good at getting new people engaged in community service and Shafer says she had a way of evaluating people’s strengths and steering them in directions where they could contribute the most.

So with a little encouragement, Shafer ran for council in 1998 and was seated among what she says was kind of a transitional group of members. Mayor Louis Bencardino had been ousted by newcomer Lowell “Bob” Satin, who ended up lasting one term. When she won the seat again in 2000, almost half the council had been voted out. By 2002 and the start of her third term, another turnover had again changed several council seats.

During those first few years, Shafer says that she came up against the huge learning curve that greets many newcomers to council seats. She says that doesn’t think most people realize the scope of city government. She notes that the city owns an electrical utility, the small boat harbor, the Seward Marine Industrial Center, the building and property at the Alaska SeaLife Center and the building and property at Mountain Haven long term care facility as well as the facility at Seward Providence Medical & Care Center.

Shafer says that’s not something that allows you to just pop your butt into a seat on Monday night without any effort. According to Shafer, there’s a lot time to be invested in learning about the budget process, tapping department heads, meeting people as well as going on trips to represent the city, lobby for community interests and acquire training.

The first major project Shafer encountered was the small boat harbor expansion and there was a lot of users and balancing needs against resources. With that project she says there were a lot of tough decisions that needed to be made. She doesn’t don’t think SMIC is going to be quite as complicated, but it will probably be just as hard, especially when the council gets into the infrastructure for the internal build-out.

Shafer feels this is an exciting time to be involved with the council. With the increasing use of arctic waters for commerce, she says the potential for Seward’s growth is unknown and Seward is in the catbird seat. She sees further expansion of programs at AVTEC and enhancing the winter economy as initiatives that will help position Seward for success in the growth of Alaska’s economy

Christy Terry

Christy Terry was thinking about taking some family time away from council after her first term but ended up throwing her name in the hat when the field of candidates got a slow start last month. She says that the position takes time away from her children, generates research projects and homework that keep her up nights and busy on weekends and involves a significant number of after hours phone calls.

However, as the filing deadline neared, only two had entered the race and rumor had it that David Squires might not run. Terry says that she thought that it was a sad state of affairs, with not even three people running. She’s satisfied that at least now there’s a race with some healthy competition. Terry also has her eye on projects that are important to the community that she like to see through to further stage of completion.

After college at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, Terry and her new husband came to Seward looking for a road system, small town experience, and a good environment to start a family. Since then, Terry has worked several jobs in the area including a position with the city as community development director for two years. While in that job she served as project manager on Mountain Haven, the city’s long-term care facility, and brought the project in on time and under budget.

Terry says that raising utility rates is going to help long deferred repairs and improvements to city water, sewer and electrical infrastructure take place. She also looking forward to working with the Providence Seward Medical & Care Center in moving the Community Health Center proposal forward. She notes that, with the money in place for SMIC breakwater construction, there’s plenty of opportunities for growth across the bay.

However, Terry cautions that every decision made at council or by administration should be based on whether or not it supports small businesses and families, which she sees as the future of the community. She proposes outsourcing some city functions like vehicle maintenance where it makes economic sense and notes that there’s been instances where the city is operating facilities in competition with local business.

Terry says that it’s a slippery slope when you start heading in that direction. She sees increasing dependency on city hall for non governmental services as undermining local business and city revenues such sales tax and property tax.

Having made the decision to run for her second term, Terry is committed. She notes that she worked for the city for eight years and feels that she has that knowledge to bring to council and she will help to represent younger working families. Terry says that serving as a council members is a lot of work if you do it right, but Seward is worth it.

Bob Valdatta

Bob Valdatta’s interview was short but sweet, much like his contributions on city council. Valdatta, appointed by Mayor Edgar Blatchford back in 2001, contributes some blue collar color to the chamber, offering pragmatic suggestions and solutions to problems that the city faces. He’s been serving at the pleasure of the community since, having captured a seat at five elections.

For his sixth run, Valdatta is the first to admit that he doesn’t have a formal platform. He’s says he just bringing some common sense to the table and keeping an eye on the process of government from the average guy’s perspective. Valdatta also says that, even with his impressive record of service, he doesn’t have a whole lot of political clout, or horsepower as he puts it. He’s just calling them as he sees them.

Valdatta arrived upon the shores of Resurrection Bay back in 1973 with 20 bucks in his pocket, sent down to Seward by the Laborer’s union hall in Anchorage. He had a job lined up at Thorn’s Showcase Lounge, where he ended up working for five and a half years. Coming off his experience as a dandy bartender around Lake Tahoe, Valdatta was Thorn’s original “Showcase Bob”.

Over the years, Valdatta has worked through many different jobs around town including a couple stints at the Chugach Alaska sawmill. He says that he’s see a lot of change in Seward, but that there’s even more progress occurring right now. He gives credit to the council working together with a new administration for giving city projects added momentum.

Valdatta says up until recently, Seward never had a really good sales force for SMIC. He think the new harbormaster, Mack Funk, is a real asset to the community and he’s looking forward to working with administration on getting projects finished and taking care of some his pet peeves like the airport runway issue. He says the doors are open for business at city hall and he’d be happy to stay on the team.

City of Seward Council candidate Dave Squires questionnaire answers.

City of Seward Council candidate Vanta Shafer questionnaire answers.

City of Seward Council candidate Christy Terry questionnaire answers.

City of Seward Council candidate Bob Valdatta questionnaire answers.


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