Barb Amarok, incumbent, is running for School Board Seat E.Jerald Brown, incumbent, is running for Nome Common Council Seat E.Mark Johnson is running for Nome Common Council Seat F.Matt Culley, incumbent, is running for Nome Common Council Seat F.Tom Okleasik is running for Nome Common Council Seat F.Wes Perkins is running for Utility Board Seat B.

In their own words: Nome municipal election candidates speak out

In order to give voters in the upcoming October 4 municipal elections an understanding of the candidates’ positions on issues, the Nome Nugget posed the same questions to candidates running for Nome Common Council seats, Nome Joint Utility board seats and the Nome School Board.
Up for election this year are two Nome Common Council seats, currently held by Jerald Brown and Matt Culley. While Brown sees no competition and is running for office unopposed, Thomas Okleasik and Mark Johnson join incumbent Culley in the race for Seat F on the council.
In the utility board race, two seats are up for election. Seat B incumbent Fred Moody is challenged by Wesley Perkins. Seat B serves a two-year term. Longtime board member Berda Willson is not running again for Seat D. The lone candidate for the three-year term seat on the utility board is Emory “Chuck” Wheeler.
School Board Seat E is a three-year term seat. Incumbent Barb Amarok is running for office again, unopposed.

Nome Common Council Seat E
Jerald Brown (incumbent)
Nome Nugget: What is your motivation to run for office and what are your qualifications to serve on the Nome Common Council?
Jerald Brown: “I am interested in continuing to serve on the council as I feel I still have something to offer the residents of Nome.  I believe my background in accounting and business management is helpful at the table.”
Nome Nugget: What do you identify as the most pressing issues for Nome and how do you propose to address them as councilman?
Jerald Brown: “I believe alcohol abuse is a pressing issue in Nome, affecting not only the individuals that drink to excess, but also the community as a whole.  The cost to society (and to the city) is great, although hard to completely quantify in terms of dollars and cents.  There is clearly a social harm (just look at the Seawall Report in any edition of the Nome Nugget) as well as a higher cost for police, health care, corrections, etc.
 While the social aspects are harder to address (outright prohibition rarely works, although a local residential treatment center would certainly help), I will continue to push for an excise tax to be levied on alcohol sales to assist with paying some of the hard costs the city expends related to alcohol abuse.”
Nome Nugget: In your opinion, what are the biggest challenges facing Nome today and how shall they be overcome?
Jerald Brown: “One of the biggest opportunities facing Nome and the region today is the opening of the Arctic to travelers and shipping routes.  We need to watch for, and take advantage of, opportunities to tap into the tourism and commerce that is being created and developed as a result of the increased traffic. There is potential for lower cost of goods, tourism dollars, contracts for support services and probably a host of other opportunities.  At the same time, we need to prepare for the downside of increased traffic, such as the inevitable spills and environmental and other impacts to the subsistence lifestyle that many in the region depend on for survival.”

Nome Common Council Seat F
Matt Culley (incumbent)
Nome Nugget: What is your motivation to run for office and what are your qualifications to serve on the Nome Common Council?
Matt Culley: “Three years ago I decided to run as I was tired of the “Good ol’ Boys” club that made up the council.  We had multi-million dollar projects over spending the public’s money because of poor choices by the council that benefitted council members.  We had free spending of money, without any public disclosure or public decisions. We had knee-jerk decisions that were not well thought-out, and didn’t benefit the city as a whole.  We had councilmembers that would say one thing in public, but then in a meeting say something completely different.  The people need someone to stand up and be heard, that wasn’t afraid to point a finger and stand up for what is right, to stand up for the common working citizen of Nome.  In that time I’ve managed to get through a procurement policy to make large monetary purchases an open, public decision by the council.  The Richard Foster building came in under budget, which is a first for any major construction project by the city.  My motivation moving further is still the same: make the city a better place by well thought-out decisions by the Council.  I’m not going to sit silent as “back door/buddy-buddy deals” get made because “we know that guy…and he does good work.”  I am a voice for the normal person because that’s what I am: just a normal person.  As for my qualifications: I’m a citizen of Nome, I pay taxes and I have an opinion.  However, what makes me more suitable for this position is my honesty, my accountability and, most importantly, my integrity.  I don’t owe any Corporation, I don’t have to vote for any employer, and I don’t owe anyone any “deals”, so my voice and my vote is solely for the people of Nome.”
Nome Nugget: What do you identify as the most pressing issues for Nome and how do you propose to address them as councilman?
Matt Culley: “Money.  Finances have been and will continue to be the most pressing issue facing this city.  The city is run by the people’s money, through taxation.  The city can’t continue to put the burden on the people, as costs grow, to pay for the increases through increased taxes.  The state’s coffers are drying up, and the federal government is tightening up its spending, all of which will lead to less money for Nome.  With all of this, the city will need to find ways to continue to grow our city, grow our local businesses, grow our port, and find other revenue streams that don’t require MORE money from the people that already are squeezed with the high cost of living here.  
At the same time the city can’t just throw money around saying “this will be good in the long run”, and spending too much, too soon.  Smart decisions need to be made with the public’s money, and those decisions need to have a “reward” for the people, either through lower taxes or through better service and infrastructure.  The people need to benefit from the council’s decisions, and they need to be wise, well thought-out decisions. I’ve seen it all too often where councilmembers make decisions and have said “It’s only $10,000.”  Only???  
That is a lot of money that our citizens have worked hard for.  No decisions should be taken lightly when it comes to spending the public’s money. We, as the council, work for the people and unfortunately sometimes some forget that.  And that should never happen.  The council should never forget who they work for, and whose money they are spending.  As a councilmember, you are only one vote of six.  So, at times it can be difficult to “make change” by yourself.  However, bringing forth dialogue about the city port, its growth and its potential for the future is a must.  Local businesses and their continued viability, expansion and sustainability.  We can’t just keep increasing taxes as we need more money.”
Nome Nugget: In your opinion, what are the biggest challenges facing Nome today and how shall they be overcome?
Matt Culley: “The biggest challenges I see for Nome’s future is growth as a City: The cost of living in Nome is approaching unlivable. Economic development is tough as the cost of starting up is prohibitively high, and the profit margins are minimal because of the cost of doing business.  Livable land is at a premium, and cost to upgrade a swath of tundra to livable conditions for a structure is expensive.  Growth in population suffers from lack of housing, and lack of land limits potential expansion for livable structures.  The Port of Nome MUST expand to become a revenue generating entity, however, it costs significant resources (both time and money) to expand.  
Cost of living in Nome is going up on all fronts; heating fuel, groceries, electricity costs, fuel for vehicles, everything.  We as a city need to look at what can be done to make Nome attractive for growth and potential revenue streams in order to help mitigate the rising costs, and make Nome affordable for its residents.  Nome is a wonderful place, with untapped potential.  We need to allow for Nome to grow —not too fast, though, I rather like the small town atmosphere— allow for business opportunities and business growth, and allow the citizens of Nome to not go broke staying in the place they love.”

Common Council Seat F
Ukallaysaaq Tom Okleasik (challenger)
Nome Nugget: What is your motivation to run for office and what are your qualifications to serve on the Nome Common Council?
Tom Okleasik: “It is an honor to run for the City of Nome Common Council Seat F (as in Frank).  As an introduction, I was born and raised in Nome.  My parents are Franklin and LaVonne Okleasik.  My Inupiaq name is Ukallaysaaq and I am a tribal citizen of Nome Eskimo Community, and shareholder in Sitnasuak, Mary’s Igloo and Bering Straits Native Corporations.  My wife is Dianne Okleasik and children are Ivik and Qaulluq Henry, both students at UAF, and Talugnaqtauq Okleasik, a graduate of Nome Preschool and currently in Nome Public Schools.
My motivation to run for office is that I love Nome, it is my hometown.  I want our community to be a great place to live for current and future generations.  When I think of our future as a community, I reflect on my growing up years in Nome.  Nome has grown a lot, and the friendliness and caring of the people that make up the community is a strong hold.  It is truly a wonderful value that supports us together.  Nome will continue to grow and I want to contribute to the ongoing positive changes in our city government that will honor our people, families and environment to make Nome a better community for all.
I believe one of my best qualifications to serve on the Nome Common Council is being from Nome.  I have knowledge of the community, families and people, environment and lifestyles, and alum of our public schools.  I am proud to have graduated with honors from both Nome Beltz High School and California Lutheran University with a bachelor of science degree in business administration.  Currently I am enrolled as a graduate student in the master of rural development program with the University of Alaska.  This education background has been very valuable for making informed decisions – both personally and professionally.
My qualifications also include my career experience that has included Business Manager at UAF-Northwest Campus, Project Director of Tlingit and Haida’s Vocational Training and Resource Center, Vice President of Community Services at Kawerak, Planning Director at the Northwest Arctic Borough, and small business owner of Northwest Planning and Grants Development.  These experiences have built strong working knowledge of budgets, grants, public involvement and community engagement.  I believe I will be an asset to the Nome Common Council.  My qualifications also include service on the following boards: Sitnasuak Foundation, Nome Arts Council, Our Savior’s Lutheran Church, Alaska Humanities Forum, North Pacific Fisheries Management Council Outreach Committee and City of Kotzebue Local Beverage Control Board.”
Nome Nugget: What do you identify as the most pressing issues for Nome and how do you propose to address them as councilman?
Tom Okleasik: “There are a number of important and pressing issues facing our community.  I think the top three pressing issues to address include economic development, education and infrastructure.
Economic development that supports our community with jobs is a very pressing issue.  Nome is the hub of the region and we need to ensure our city is supporting the necessary infrastructure, systems and organizations to both support our community and regional services.  This is key economic development, especially when we look at the significant growth of our regional organizations like Kawerak, Norton Sound Health Corporation, Norton Sound Economic Development Corporation, Bering Strait Region Housing Authority and Bering Strait Native Corporation.  Mining is also historically an important industry to Nome and continues as a resource through today.  We need responsible resource development that honors our environment and provides opportunities to our local residents and businesses.  Another opportunity is the port infrastructure in Nome, especially with commercial fisheries and the opening of the Arctic to global marine transportation including tourism.  The City of Nome has as an important role to facilitate economic development.  I would like to be a part of the council to ensure we have positive relationships with our organizations and industries that support jobs for our local people while best ensuring the protection of our rural Alaska lifestyles.  I would like to be a voice on the council to brainstorm fresh ideas in public-private partnerships and help facilitate projects from plans to development for responsible economic development.
Another important area is education.  As an alum of our Nome Public Schools, I know how important is it to support our local students, teachers and school district.  We need strong schools to give the best education with our children to be the next leaders, doctors, nurses, truck drivers, computer programmers, carpenters, plumbers and business owners in Nome.  We also need to provide public education that honors and integrates our indigenous languages and cultures with new generations.  We live in an extremely unique part of the state, country and world – the Bering Strait.  We need our students to identify with that as a strength and foundation that will successfully grow them into global citizens in a changing Alaska and Arctic.  I have been fortunate to travel to many parts of the country and globe including New Zealand.  People want to know about our part of the world, our cultures and our languages. At the 2015 Norton Sound Education Summit, there were a number of amazing recommendations to continue and improve our education systems.  I would like to be on the council to voice those recommendations and work in partnership with our school board and community members to support our schools and improve our education so we have the best students and graduates in Alaska.
A third pressing issue is infrastructure.  Our community needs excellent public roads and walkways, water-sewer systems, electricity, street lighting and safety improvements, ports and harbors, and public buildings and parks.  Nome has invested in our public infrastructure and we need to continue those investments to sustain and grow as a community.  As our community expands, we also need to ensure we are planning and providing for new housing subdivisions, businesses and industries, and regional hub services.  Such infrastructure improvements can ensure that Nome is a great place to live that strongly supports the growth of our community with places to live, operate successful rural businesses, and support our community including the surrounding villages as the hub.  
I believe we also need to advance our renewable energy systems for long term cost effectiveness as well as promoting a clean environment.  Overall, excellent infrastructure will support our community for today and the future.”
Nome Nugget: In your opinion, what are the biggest challenges facing Nome today and how shall they be overcome?
Tom Okleasik: “One of the biggest challenges facing Nome today is the budget.  There are and will be reductions from the State of Alaska that impact our city and ability to support valuable public services.  In the coming years, important public decisions on revenue and cutting budgets will need to be made.  We must balance our budgets and ensure our city can continue to operate efficiently.  Many city services directly contribute to the quality of life in the community: from utilities to the Recreation Center, from snow removal to dust control, from public safety to local emergency planning and response, and from port/harbor infrastructure to public schools and libraries.  I have strong experience in working with budgets and want to make sure we trim expenses wisely so we sustain our essential services and quality of life in Nome.  At the same time, we need to seek and secure revenues to strengthen much needed services as a rural community with a growing population.  I also have strong experience in grants and public-private partnerships to best invest in and support our community.
In closing, I appreciate your support and vote this October 4 as a homegrown leader that can work as a team member on the council for a great Nome!”

Nome Common Council Seat F
Mark Johnson (challenger)
Nome Nugget: What is your motivation to run for office and what are your qualifications to serve on the Nome Common Council?
Mark Johnson: “Having lived and worked in Nome and northwest Alaska for 30 years, I have a personal interest and motivation to run for Nome Common Council to try to do my best to represent the best interests for all people of Nome. My wife Trinh and I have raised our boys here in Nome through our local school system and have owned small businesses in Nome for many years. Through these experiences, I feel that I have a good understanding of the function of our city government and how choices that are made by our city council affect each of us. As a local CPA working in Nome for the past 25 years and as CEO of Unalakleet Native Corporation for the past nine years, I feel that I have the knowledge and experience to understand budgets for the city and operating within the budgets.  I also have served on the Nome Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors for 20 years, have served as volunteer for many years with youth sports programs in the past, and currently represent Nome as a commissioner on the Nome Port Commission.   I will take a conservative approach as a city council member in assisting to make decisions that are made for running our city efficiently.”
Nome Nugget: What do you identify as the most pressing issues for Nome and how do you propose to address them as councilman?
Mark Johnson: “The cost of living has always been high in Nome and it is also costly to operate the city government.  In the most recent years, because of the high cost of oil for heating our homes and businesses, higher electricity costs and high cost of shipping goods here, it has been very challenging for all of us here in Nome.  The city has provided some excellent services, such as the road crew keeping our roads cleared during the winter and safe to drive on, however, the city must also live within its budget.  I feel that the residents of Nome are already strapped with the high cost of living and do not need additional stress from higher taxes or fees.  In many areas, I believe our city does a good job.  As city council member, I will work for the city to continue to provide necessary services to residents, yet operate in the most efficient way so as not to have to raise taxes and additional fees on our local economy.”
Nome Nugget: In your opinion, what are the biggest challenges facing Nome today and how shall they be overcome?
Mark Johnson: “We are experiencing exciting times here in Nome right now, with the opening up of the Northwest Passage that brings more cruise ships and cargo ships using our port.  We also have a stable fishing fleet operating out of Nome and a strong gold mining industry in Nome, both inland and offshore, as well as a viable rock and gravel supply shipping out of our port.  Our challenge as a community will be to capitalize on these opportunities in a safe manner and with local stable growth.  The city must provide necessary services to these growing industries at reasonable fees and not over-regulate industry to allow it to grow.  More business in our town also brings more sales tax for city government to help provide services.  If we capture more of the sales tax and fees from ships and visitors using our port facility, it will provide further funds for our city government to operate without increasing taxes and fees for local residents.  
With state budgets decreasing, we as a city have the potential to receive less funds for our schools.  It will continue to be a challenge to plan for this potential decrease in state funding and figure out how to make up the difference locally.  Concerning schools, we as a city must encourage longevity of management and teachers in our schools because it really makes a big difference for quality education.  
With Nome being a hub for 15 villages, we have been benefited greatly from our region’s residents travelling to Nome with the effect on our economy.  Because of these 15 villages, we have our largest employers located in Nome serving these villages, such as Kawerak, Norton Sound Health Corporation, Bering Straits Regional Housing Authority, Bering Straits Native Corporation, state and federal government offices and others.  These employers employ many people who keep our economy going here.  It is our challenge as a city to recognize the importance of our region’s 15 villages to Nome, providing good services to our surrounding villages, and to welcome and encourage continued travel to Nome.  It is also our challenge as a city to support and promote our local arts, culture, sports, recreational facilities and non-profit organizations because it is these “quality of life” attributes in Nome that often keep our valued employees and residents living in Nome to support our local economy.”

Utility Board Seat B
Fred Moody (incumbent)
Nome Nugget: What are your qualifications to run for Utility Board?
Fred Moody: “I have been a licensed electrician since 1951, in Wisconsin, in Alaska since 1967. Electrical contractor in Nome from 1988 to 1999.”
Nome Nugget: What motivated you to run for office?
Fred Moody: “I felt the Utility Board needed a voice of an electrical person on the board.”
Nome Nugget: What, do you believe, is the most important issue that NJUS faces and what solutions do you propose?
Fred Moody: “The important issue we have to contend with at this time is wind power problems. The solution we have at this time is what to do with the wind power and electricity generated by it and integrating the cost of the fuel.”
Nome Nugget: What direction does NJUS need to take to assure reliable energy and water & sewer services at an affordable cost for Nome residents in the future?
Fred Moody: “We have been working diligently summer after summer with water and sewer with grant programs from state and federal governments.”

Utility Board Seat B
Wesley Perkins (challenger)
Nome Nugget: What are your qualifications to run for Utility board?  
Wes Perkins: “I have lived in Nome all my life, I worked for NJUS as a Water and Sewer Operator, and I have knowledge of the local challenges that we all face with shrinking state and federal resources.”  
Nome Nugget: What motivated you run for office?
Wes Perkins: “I have been a volunteer all my life, I have been on the Nome Volunteer Fire Department for 39 years, and the Nome Volunteer Ambulance Department for 10 years. I want to help Nome in any way I can.  I want to see Nome concentrate on alternate energy, I was hoping we would be seeing some results of the Pilgrim Hotsprings Geothermal Project.  I also would like to see Nome do everything we can to be less dependent on diesel fuel, as it really affects the cost of living in rural Alaska. I think we need to educate the residents of Nome on how to be more energy efficient overall.  Every little bit we can save helps the amount of fuel we consume overall. I also want to see NJUS cut costs where we can to keep rates from going up. I am not against raising utility rates if there is justification.”
Nome Nugget: What do you believe is the most important issue that NJUS faces and what solutions do you propose?  
Wes Perkins: “Diesel fuel prices are the big controlling factor in the rates. Prices have come down some, but who knows where they are going next. I would like to see us reduce the amount of fuel we use every year, either by alternative energy projects, or by becoming more efficient overall as a community. Turn off items that are not necessary to use year round.  Cities are going to more wind energy and I would like to see Nome explore that option in the future if funding is available. Individuals should look into solar energy too; after all we live in the land of the Midnight Sun.”    
Nome Nugget: What direction does NJUS need to take to assure reliable energy and water & sewer services at an affordable cost for Nome residents in the future?  
Wes Perkins: “I think we need to look at the different options to make the Utilities more efficient. Maintaining what is there now, is as important as replacing the older infrastructure. Items that have high maintenance costs should be budgeted to be replaced. Implement a plan for where we want to be in the next five and 10 years, and try to stay on track.”

School Board Seat E
Barb Amarok (incumbent)
Nome Nugget: What are your qualifications and why do you want to re-run for School Board?
Barb Amarok: “First and foremost, I believe that any community member who is eligible is qualified to run for our school board.  Our schools in Nome have over the past several years taken great strides toward effective delivery of formal schooling for the children of Nome and I would like to continue to actively support the goals of the Nome Public Schools Board of Education and Superintendent: to provide resources for the development and adoption of curriculum; to support the integration of students’ cultures and communities into the curriculum through implementation of the Alaska Standards for Culturally Responsive Schools; and to ensure that all students feel connected to their teachers and other students by improving the school climate.
I have a bachelor’s, masters and doctoral degree in education.  I worked for Nome Public Schools for 20 years as a classroom teacher, Native Programs Coordinator and as the Nome-Beltz Assistant Principal; I also worked with the Kawerak, Inc. Adult Basic Education Program for six years and for the University of Alaska Northwest Campus for six years.  I continue to teach courses for NPS and Bering Strait School District teachers and administrators at the yearly Cultural Camp for Educators.
The responsibility of School Board members is to work with the Superintendent to ensure student achievement, academic success and preparedness for life choices.  We have dedicated and hardworking administrators, staff members and teachers that I would like to continue to support as a School Board member through networking with other school districts, our legislators and the Association of Alaska School Boards.”
Nome Nugget: How can the goals of the Nome Public Schools District be met with dwindling state funds in the future?
Barb Amarok: “We have had to ‘tighten our belts’ in the past but, because the School Board, teachers and Superintendent work tirelessly, we have continued to serve the community through partnership and adaptation. Nome Public Schools has an impressive administrative staff that has sought and obtained grants and funding from local, regional and statewide organizations to supplement the school’s budget and we are also extremely grateful for the work and support of the Nome City Council and the Mayor.” 
Nome Nugget: What would you like to see accomplished at School Board level in the three years?
Barb Amarok: “Nome Public Schools is working hard to increase the percentage of students who achieve reading proficiency by 3rd grade.  When children read at or above grade level, their journey through Junior High, Senior High and postsecondary endeavors can be successful.  The School Board is also determined to strengthen partnerships with local entities to serve the children of Nome and we would like to support our teachers in moving into administrative positions.
Please get out and vote on October 4! Quyaanna/Taikuullapiaq!”


The Nome Nugget

PO Box 610
Nome, Alaska 99762

Phone: (907) 443-5235
Fax: (907) 443-5112

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