Sitka and Juneau elect new mayors in municipal elections

Communities across the state elected new mayors and enacted new measures in local municipal elections yesterday.

Listen now

Sitka elected a new mayor, 79-year-old Gary Paxton. Paxton said that once he gets the mayor’s gavel in his hand, his first priority was to “bring a sense of peace and work together to solve our problems.”

“Have more open meetings perhaps, less executive sessions, so that we can stop some of the conspiracy theories which are always prominent,” Paxton said.

Sitka was quick to weigh-in on a a new a new statewide smoking ban that went into effect the day before the election, which prohibits smoking at bars and restaurants. State statute includes an opt-out provision and – while staff at Ernie’s Old Time Saloon rallied to get the necessary signatures to put this question on the ballot – Sitka voters turned it down.

Establishments that once allowed smoking must now remove ashtrays and put up no-smoking signs, and smokers now have to take it outside.

In the Juneau mayoral election, Beth Weldon pulled ahead of her opponents early and managed to earn almost half of the total vote in a four-way contest. The small business owner and former Juneau Assembly member said she appreciated the positive campaigns her opponents ran.

“We kept it to issues and it was a fun campaign and I’ll enjoy talking to them and getting their viewpoints on issues in the future,” Weldon said.

Weldon said she hopes to tackle crime problems and affordable child care first once in office.

In the Mat-Su Borough mayoral race, incumbent Vern Halter ended Tuesday with a sizable lead over challenger Bruce Walden. After the initial count, Halter is listed with just over sixty percent of the vote.

The Mat-Su election also had three ballot initiatives that ended the night with more votes in the “Yes” column than the “No” column.

Proposition B-1, an advisory vote on whether the borough should look into obtaining police powers, saw the most approval from voters. Proposition B-2 is a road bond package with around fifty-seven percent approval. Proposition B-3 would move the borough’s election day from October to November. Proposition three has the lowest margin of approval after Tuesday at around fifty-two percent.

This story contained reporting from Adelyn Baxter with KTOO – Juneau, Phillip Manning with KTNA – Talkeetna and Emily Kwong with KCAW – Sitka.