Bristol Bay Borough election set for Oct. 6

Sep 29, 2015

The ballot for the upcoming Bristol Bay Borough election features three candidates for two assembly seats, and three candidates for two school board seats.

Borough Assembly

Mary Swain (incumbent)

Mary Swain moved to King Salmon as a high school student in 1991. She is the administrative assistant for the Bristol Bay Telephone Cooperative, and has served on the borough assembly since 2013. She has also served on the Camai Community Health Center Board of Directors since 2001 and is currently the chairperson.

Why are you running for borough assembly?

I am re running for the Assembly because I have a heart for the community and I want to help it continue to be a safe place to raise my children and all future generations. Since being elected we have accomplished many things. We were able to secure funding for our continued work on the wastewater project even though the state had to cut funding for many other projects around the state. This project has had many people working on it and through their hard work and the Assemblies commitment to this being a priority we have been able to move forward. The Assembly also put a bond package to the voters earlier this year for much needed maintenance and upgrades to the school. The voters passed the bond however the state has suspended the debt reimbursement program and now we are working to get funding through other avenues.

What do you want to accomplish?

I seek re-election with no agenda in mind. With that being said there are a couple key issues I would like to accomplish if re-elected. 1) Continued full funding of the school for education. We are so lucky to have the school we have in Bristol Bay. Many children have graduated from our school and gone on to do great things for our community as well as the communities that surround us. As the states funding for education decreases I hope we can continue to help as much as we can. 2) We have to find a way to better rid our community of garbage. I would like to see some kind of sustainable recycling system here. There is so much that goes into our landfill because we have no other place to put it or way to get it out of here. We need to come together as a community and find creative ways to do this. 3) Finally, the cost of fuel in our community continues to rise while the surrounding, sometimes more rural, communities are seeing a decrease in fuel prices. Last year we were able to see a decrease locally but even with that we were paying more than others around us.

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

These are just a few of the many issues the Borough is facing. Decreased state funding support for vital projects is a big concern as well as decreased population. We have noticed our community shrinking and we need to figure out a way to lower costs and still provide necessary services so families can continue to live in the community that they have called home for so many generations.

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Carvel Zimin Jr (incumbent)

Carl Zimin Jr is a life-long resident of South Naknek. He is a commercial fishermen, with experience setnetting and drifting, and is the assistant plant manager and winter watch-person for Trident Seafoods. He has served on the borough’s planning and zoning commission, the South Naknek Village Council, and the borough assembly. He has also served on the Naknek Electric Association board, Alaska Peninsula Corporation board, Southwest Alaska Municipal Conference, the Naknek-Kvichak Advisory Committee, the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute’s Salmon Marketing Committee and the Denali Commission’s Rural Transportation Advisory Committee.

Why are you running for borough assembly?

I am running as incumbent and would like to continue work for all community members in a positive and stable direction.

What do you want to accomplish?

I would continue to look for community development projects and support local hire while maintaining a low local tax burden.

What do you think is the main issue facing the borough?
A big issue facing the borough is our investment in education for our kids. The state is facing an ever growing financial problem and funding will be hard to find.

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Michael Gottschalk is also running, but could not be reached by press time.

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School Board

Michael Swain (incumbent)

Michael Swain Jr. is a lifelong resident of King Salmon. He owns a small heating and plumbing business, and is a mechanic for the state of Alaska’s Department of Transportation. He has served on the Bristol Bay Borough School District school board for 12 years.

Why are you running?

I am running again because I believe that there is still important work to do, increasing the educational opportunities for our youth, expanding our Career and Technical Education program offerings for our students, and increase graduation / reducing dropout rates just to name a few.

What do you want to accomplish?

I want to ensure that our students have been provided with every opportunity possible to help them be successful in school and life. I have served and currently serve on AASB's (Association of Alaska School Boards) Board of Directors for the last 4 years. This has allowed me to bring the concerns and challenges of a small district to a statewide platform.

What do you think is the main issue facing schools right now?

I think the biggest issue facing our school district and many districts across the state for that matter is twofold. Declining enrollment and reduced funding. As the state continues in this "fiscal crisis" funding most likely will be reduced or at least flat funded. This is going to result in growing budget deficits in our district and across the entire state. To compound that, as your enrollment decreases, so does your funding. Your fixed costs do not decrease, you still have an infrastructure that you have to heat and maintain etc.

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Tanya Hansen (incumbent)

Tanya Hansen has lived in Naknek for more than 35 years. She is the accounts recivable/tax clark for the Bristol Bay Borough. She has served on the school board previously.

Why are you running?

I am running because I enjoy being on the school board. We are a diverse group that respects each others ideas and opinions and has the best interests of the students and staff at heart when making decisions.

What do you want to accomplish?

I would like to accomplish seeing the CTE/Dormitory being completed, the school maintenance issues being solved, giving our children exceptional educational opportunities, and keeping our staff gratified.

What do you think is the main issue facing schools right now?

The main issue I see facing the schools is going to be funding and amount of students especially for village schools. Our costs are soaring, our population declining, and the State of Alaska unable to contribute as much due to the decline in oil prices. Schools are going to have to do some creative thinking on how to stretch their dollars along with still providing a top rate education.

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Katie Copps-Wilson

Katie Copps-Wilson has lived in Naknek for four years. She is primarily a stay at home mom, and also works at Camai Community Health Center as a physician’s assistant, which she plans to return to after her toddler starts school.

Why are you running?

I have never been on the school board in the past. I have considered running for a long time but now that I'm a stay at home parent, I feel that I have the energy to devote to the school board.  I am invested in the future of the school as I am a parent of three girls ages 1, 8 and 12. As a lifelong learner, I am passionate about learning new things, discovering and being exposed to new ideas. This is what I want my children to gain from their educational experience, a life long love of learning along with confidence in their knowledge. Our school needs to continue to provide an environment where creativity, innovation and engaged learning is supported and promoted.

What do you want to accomplish?

I want BBBSD to be the best school in the state! I want people to move to Naknek, King Salmon, South Naknek because we have the most innovative and hands on approach to academics in Alaska! We can be "that" school. I think one of the best things we have going for us is that we have a small population, this allows us to tailor the curriculum to the individual learner instead of relying on cookie cutter curriculum. Furthermore, we have many talented people in our community that we need to invest more time in recruiting, to teach skills and ideas beyond the traditional curriculum. I believe the current administration is doing a great job in moving this way, and they need all the support they can get!

The other thing I want to accomplish is having all board agendas and meeting minutes published online so that the community can have immediate access to them. This is one way the school board can start promoting community involvement and clear up any concerns of transparency. 

What do you think is the main issue facing schools right now?

As we all know, the lack of funding is the biggest, if not the main issue facing schools right now.   Specifically in our case, the actual school building is the biggest drain on our budget, from upkeep, heating, electricity, etc. We have 120 kids in a school built for 500. However, I believe this can be overcome- we need to think outside of the box and be creative. I know that there have been several ideas tossed around, a process which we need to continue. We need to consider combining with other local resources to find ways of cost sharing. Overall, I believe the school will get through these tough times and will only continue to improve as we find ways to overcome the issues.

Other elections in the region are also scheduled for Oct. 6. Dillingham's mayoral race is the only contested race; three candidates are running for three seats on the city council, and one candidate is running for school board, with two open seats. In the Lake and Peninsula Borough, one school board seat is contested; incumbent mayor Glen Alsworth is running unopposed, and other school board and borough assembly seats are uncontested.