Budget, Education Top Priority List in House District 16 Race

Don Hadley and Kevin Kastner. (Photo by Josh Edge, APRN - Anchorage)
Don Hadley and Kevin Kastner. (Photo by Josh Edge, APRN – Anchorage)

Two very different men are running in the Republican primary for House District 16 in East Anchorage, but they have similar agendas. They both want to reduce the budget and fix the education system.

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Seventy-two year old Don Hadley moved to the state 47 years ago with the military. He says he’s spent his entire life as a public servant, mostly as a public school teacher and an Alaska Air National Guardsman. He says he wants to continue giving back.

“We make a living by what we get. But we make life by what we give,” he says. “And I think that’s a perfect statement about how I feel about running for public office.”

Hadley ran and lost back in 2012. The retired school teacher is making education one of his primary issues. He says he’s not sure how much money the schools need, but he supports programs like early childhood education. He says a key to fixing the education system is getting parents involved.

His opponent, 44-year-old Kevin Kastner, agrees. Kastner’s experience differs greatly from his opponent’s. Most of his work has involved technology, marketing, and starting new businesses. He argues that to get parents to be active in their children’s schools, they first need to have secure jobs.

“Many of our social and civic issues that we deal with — which is not something I’m running on — but I think many of those problems can be solved when people are working, are happy, are earning a good living.”

Kastner says to do that, the state needs to look for long-term solutions, like promoting workforce development, renewable resources, and the diversification of Alaska’s economy.

“That 90% dependency on oil is something that is in a way, our weakest spot,” he says. “I think we all kind of know that. But I think as long as we have that dependency, we’re going to be continuously debating ‘How much should we get? Are they too greedy?’ So as long as we’re in that sort of dependency, we’re never going to solve our long term problems.”

Kastner says one potential solution is creating an operations fund to run the state government that works just like the Permanent Fund. He says the state needs to invest now in a consistent source of revenue that will remain strong, even if oil production continues to decline.

Hadley says maintaining a push for more resource development is a key to keeping Alaska’s budget healthy.

“And we as citizens and the legislature and the governor need to do all we can to responsibly develop oil and gas in Alaska.”

But Hadley says that shouldn’t be at the expense of other resources, like fisheries. He did not have any specific ideas for cutting the budget or improving resource development. He says he does have experience managing budgets for the flight services department of the Air National Guard.

Kastner touts his business and budget experience. He says that as the director for Iron Dog he has worked with people around the state to coordinate the race. He’s managed budgets for different sized businesses and also worked with the state legislature to change laws about advertising for fund raisers online.