A dialogue with Senator Bert Stedman
January 12, 2012
Alaska State Senator Bert Stedman was in Wrangell last week to take a tour of the borough and meet with city government and business leaders.
With the 2012 session of the Alaska Legislature looming, Senator Stedman discussed some issues important to him – and to Wrangellites.
Talk about your visit to Wrangell. What have the last couple of days been like?
STEDMAN: We got here yesterday and have been going around town, from one end to the other, checking out the harbors and the boat haulout and we also went to the mill site at 12-mile. We’ve been trying to run into people to see what is going on in the borough to see what issues they might have.
What do you see as some of the positive accomplishments Wrangell has seen in recent memory?
STEDMAN: If you look back a couple of years, we were really trying to deal with economic issues in the community. We were trying to accelerate the construction of Heritage Harbor and we bent a few rules to get that done. In the last appropriation, we took Heritage out of the normal appropriating process and just did a direct financing deal for City Hall. We got that done quickly because, at the time, the down economy was not on our side.
After that was done we started focusing on the boat haulout. The community should be very proud of what they have with the haulout because it looks nice and it is generating a lot of employment. Boats are coming from all over Southeast to use it, so it’s pretty obvious we have a good thing going on here with that facility. There is still a bit of concrete work to be done and a need for about $6 million, so we’re going to aggressively go after that.
What are some of the issues most important to you as the legislative session gets underway?
STEDMAN: Head tax money is going to be an issue as we go forward. My office has taken a pretty aggressive stance when it came to the head tax to make sure Wrangell and Petersburg got their fair share of the money, even though they didn’t have the volume of ships. We need to be aggressive on issues like that so we can have money available for things like the boat haulout.
I’m well aware of issues on Front Street such as the renovation project. Hopefully, next summer, there will be less indigestion over the project, but only time will tell. I hope City Hall, the contractors, the merchants, and ADOT can work something out so things can move smoothly – but that remains to be seen. At the end of the day, you have to have a viable traffic pattern in order to keep the business community healthy. You can’t just shut down commerce in the town for a couple of months.
Your actions were integral in forcing the winter work closure on Front Street. What do you see as important to keep the project on time and budget as it starts up again in the spring?
STEDMAN: I would recommend a lot more open dialogue because when the concerns of the community rise to the level that people are contacting my office, and the City Manager sends me an email saying he’s got problems, it’s like taking a hammer to a tack. We dealt with it right away over a weekend.
From my standpoint, I would encourage all the stakeholders, the merchants, contractors, City Hall and ADOT, to sit in a room together and talk about how they are going to move the project forward. It doesn’t help the contractor to have that much indigestion in a community where he has to live and work. The community wants a smooth-running project as well with quality construction when it’s done. I’m hoping that everyone will come together on this.
In the 2012 election, you will be facing Angoon Democrat Albert Kookesh. Can you draw any differences between you and your opponent?
STEDMAN: In this new house district, which will include Ketchikan, I think it’ll be a good fit for me. As far as my competitor in the general election, Sen. Kookesh has put his foot forward to be the Democratic opponent and I fully intend to just run on my record, which can begin right at the boat haulout. After that, you can look to the work we’ve gotten done on Heritage Harbor. In downtown, you can look to what we’ve done in the renovation project. When it’s done, it is going to be very nice. The borough went and got the money through Rep. (Don) Young when ADOT wasn’t very excited about it. I worked with ADOT to understand that the project was viable. Basically, we’ll boil it down to the local issues in our communities, and in Wrangell I will respond by showing how I have worked to help the town and its people. I’ll be ending my 6th year as the co-chair of the Senate Finance Committee. The last time we had a member from our district in that position was Sen. Bill Ray of Juneau in 1975-76. So, we’ll be talking about records, effectiveness, and about being in the middle of all the political topics for the district and beyond.
See print edition for complete local coverage. Content (C) 2012 Wrangell Sentinel