A look forward with Representative Peggy Wilson
Now that you have been re-elected, what is the most important issue you see facing Wrangell, and how do you intend to deal with it in the Legislature?
I think the issues facing all of Southeast Alaska are, basically, similar. We need to improve our economy and make ourselves attractive to new business ventures and increase the population of Southeast. There are three ways to do this; when a business comes into an area, they look at three things. First, they look to see if there are good schools, they look to see if you’ve got good infrastructure, and they want to see if you have low cost energy. So, those are the three things we need to zero in on and make sure that we have enough of. We’re finding, though, that with our low cost energy, we are not offering enough. There are so many people going to electricity to heat with that we’re running out of energy. Five years ago, we never dreamed this would happen, but here we are and we’re getting to the point where we are worried about where we’re going to get the energy, so we have to make sure we get enough. That’s extremely important, so any business that may come, whether it’s mining, or a business for the boatyard, they want to know there is enough electricity.
What are some of your feelings on the Wrangell Medical Center renovation project? What do you see as the way forward?
We need it and I want to see it go forward. I think that with the new board they are making progress. We have to make sure they look at the right things and that they are thinking it well out. Things might have been done a little quickly before, and we need to make sure we’re not doing anything with a knee-jerk reaction. We need to give the board plenty of time to think it out and do what they need to do and we need to trust them.
Capital projects seem to be rolling forward in Wrangell at a rapid pace. What are some projects you could envision on the horizon for the borough?
When we’re looking at capital projects we have to be realistic. We used to have two Southeast legislators in the leadership positions on Finance. The hard part now is that we have lost that. So, it’s extremely important to realize that the other areas are going to want more of what they assume is their fair share. There are really only four of us in the House fighting for capital projects for Southeast and that is a little scary. So, we’ll see what happens and do our best. Secondly the first year of the two-year term in the House, the capital projects budget usually isn’t as big as the second year. That’s because you have all these new people coming in and they aren’t used to it and haven’t learned the ropes yet. They know more by the second year, so that second-year budget is usually bigger.
How tough was your race to win the seat in the newly formed House District 33? You won big in Wrangell, so what were some of your challenges in the other cities and boroughs in the district?
It was a challenge, and first of all, I want to thank all the people who helped me. I could not have done it without all of the volunteers. I had lots of volunteers in Wrangell, on Prince of Wales Island and in Ketchikan. The district was all totally new to me and it was a challenge, especially with having a lot of competition from my opponents during the primary and the general election. I just felt like I had to get out there and go door-to-door and talk to people. I wanted to make sure I did everything I could to meet people and that is what I did, though it was the hardest challenge because everyone was new and it wasn’t like I was in my old district where everybody knows me. I think things came together rather quickly and I’m just pleased it turned out the way it did. I just got back from the organizational meeting with the House majority and Kathy Munoz and I really had to strategize how best to handle this, so Kathy went onto Finance so that she can be looking at it from that angle, and I, having more seniority, went for leadership in Juneau and I think that will make a difference in our area.
What is the most important thing Peggy Wilson can accomplish during the next session in the Legislature?
One of the big things I want to accomplish is my Alaska Transportation Infrastructure Fund bill that I passed in the House twice before. Of course, we have to start all over in a new session. This will be good for all of Alaska because it will help us become more self-sufficient and will help modify the boom and bust cycle that we have in our transportation infrastructure. It puts the rural areas into a setback every time we’re in one of our bust cycles, and we’re kind of in one right now. No matter what the economy is doing, we have to stay working on our infrastructure; we still have to maintain our roads and if we’re going to grow this state, we need to have roads to resources. It has been 30 years since the State of Alaska has built a new state road. So that is a big one for me.