New faces dot Alaska’s mayoral line-up

Several communities across the state voted in new mayors in local elections yesterday.

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In Juneau, fisheries consultant Greg Fisk beat incumbent Mayor Merrill Sanford 2-1.

Greg Fisk, left, watches election results come in with supporter Marc Wheeler, center, and campaign manager Greg Smith. (Photo by Lisa Phu/KTOO)
Greg Fisk, left, watches election results come in with supporter Marc Wheeler, center, and campaign manager Greg Smith.
(Photo by Lisa Phu/KTOO)

“I’m a little overwhelmed. I really thought it was going to be closer, a lot closer,” Fisk said after the results were in. “I think it’s really a reflection of the fact — not so much a reflection on me as, you know, the fact that Merrill, he could have run a lot harder and made it a lot closer.”

In the Interior, voters chose Karl Kassel to be the next Mayor of the Fairbanks North Star Borough. The longtime assembly member won by a wide margin, decisively taking a race that was primarily contested over the growth of borough government.

“It shows that the community wants to keep trying to move things forward.”

Kassel says that means maintaining services, while trying to keep property taxes in check.

“It means were going to have to be a little more efficient. Maybe start some new partnerships–build some bridges between different segments of our community and see how we can accomplish providing these services without spending as much money.”

In the Mat Su Borough, the mayors race is too close to call but challenger Vern Halter is leading incumbent Larry DeVilbiss by 179 votes. Over 2,000 absentee and questioned ballots remain to be counted.

And in Nome, challenger Richard Beneville soundly beat incumbent Denise Michels, who has held the job since 2003. Beneville has staged musical theater productions in the Nome schools for years. He was close to speechless when he learned about the results:

“That’s very heartening, I’m very happy- Mayor of Nome, isn’t that cool, wow! I just got to let it kind of all soak in.”

Soldotna will also have a new mayor. Pete Sprague won election yesterday to replace Mayor Nels Anderson who resigned July 8th this year.

And in North Pole, Santa Claus — that’s his real name — is leading the race to fill two open seats on the North Pole city council. Claus is the former president of the North Pole Chamber of Commerce.