Why I am running for Ketchikan Borough Assembly
By Trevor Shaw
September 06, 2020
After much consideration, I have decided to run for Borough Assembly in the upcoming October Municipal Election, and I wanted to share with all of you why I decided to run. Just as a heads up, it is a bit lengthy.
COVID-19 and the effects of the pandemic have taken their toll on our local economy. For the first time in decades, our town experienced a summer without Cruise Ships. We have only just begun to see the real impact of that lost revenue. It would be dishonest for me to say that I do not fear what the winter holds for our community and her residents.
There are so many unknowns facing Ketchikan as the worst recession since the Great Depression bears down on the world. But there is one thing I do know: The First City is resilient. I am confident in stating that we are probably the best equipped community in the State of Alaska to not only survive the situation at hand, but to thrive in the aftermath.
These next several months are set to be tough. However, we have seen tough times before. From the closing of the Ketchikan Pulp Mill in 1997, to the Financial Crisis of 2008, to the Alaska State Budget Crisis that has impacted all of us for the last five years, and everything in between.
It has been in times like these that our community has always united and rallied together to overcome crisis, and I know we can do it again. It is times like these that remind me why I live in Ketchikan. Not only will we get back to where we were before COVID-19, we will come back stronger than ever.
Now is not going be an easy time to hold local elected office. There are going to be some very tough decisions and hard choices that must be made in the next three years on the Borough Assembly. Public Service is not about convenience, it is about commitment.
I was beyond blessed to grow up in a community as awesome as Ketchikan. From an innovative and dynamic educational system, to quality-of-life enhancing non-profit organizations and pristine environment, to a variety of rewarding employment opportunities. As the Father of a young child, I want to build an even better and brighter future for the next generation.
I have always said that government works best when it is the closest to the people. Here in Ketchikan, that is the City and the Borough. Local government exists to perform some of the most essential and fundamental functions of government: Transportation, Police, Fire/EMS, Planning & Zoning, Public Works, etc. Beyond those most basic responsibilities, local government exists to promote and protect the best interests of our community.
It should be the role of local government to foster an environment that encourages success and growth; from the small business owners working tirelessly to create jobs, to our children in the classrooms learning to build a life of their own, to the teachers, charity organizations, and local government officials that work hard to make that happen.
My approach to governance is two-fold: 1) Don’t Hurt People and Don’t Take Their Stuff; and 2) People Matter Most. Local government should be at the very forefront of both. I believe it is the paramount responsibility of the Borough in every decision made to protect people’s lives, livelihood, property, and individual rights.
I think the Borough has done a very good job at doing those things. However, we should always strive to do better. It is easy to get lost in the routine and repetitive nature of government business. Public servants should always be careful of becoming complacent, even unintentionally. I know this from experience.
In 2013, when I was still just a senior in high school, I had the incredible honor of being elected to the Ketchikan School Board. I was proud to be on the Board during some major milestones for our School District. To name a few: We established a Student Safety Committee and commissioned a comprehensive security report that provided recommendations on how to make the environment and facilities safer for our students, staff, and community. We expanded Career and Technical Education opportunities for Ketchikan students. We established a permanent Native Education Committee, in conjunction with KIC and the Village of Saxman, to foster a more community-involved and detail-oriented approach to improving education outcomes and opportunities for Native students. The achievement that I am the proudest of is the establishment of the Local Education Fund, which provided a dedicated funding source for our School District. This gave teachers and administrators a predictable and stable budgeting process, allowing them to do what they do best: educate our children.
While it is easy to talk about successes, especially when they have a meaningful impact on students and staff, I believe it is just as important to discuss deficiencies and disappointments. As most of you know, my time on the Ketchikan School Board came to an end when I resigned amidst a recall effort. At the time, I called it politically motivated. In the heat of any situation where you feel personally attacked, it is hard to see things objectively. However, thankfully, hindsight really is 20/20.
The recall was brought forward by a group of people who felt that the Board under my leadership as Board President was not being responsive to public concerns and input. They believed that they had no other recourse in the process than to initiate a recall to achieve the change they were hoping to see. Honestly, that is why I am running for Assembly.
Sometimes you do not realize and fully comprehend the details of a situation because you are too involved in it. As the saying goes, “sometimes it’s hard to see the forest for the trees”. Every public servant should look for those opportunities for growth and take to heart lessons that have been learned and embrace them.
I will be the first to tell you that I have made mistakes and that I am far from perfect. I am only human; we all are only human. There is no such thing as a “perfect” leader. If there were, we would not need an Assembly made up of 7 members and a Mayor. The beauty of that is being able to lean in and build on the strengths and abilities of the people around you. That is what I love about living in a small town like Ketchikan.
I have seen just how important it is to ensure that every voice, from every perspective and background, be afforded involvement in the public process from beginning to end on every issue because of the danger that it poses to the process and our community as a whole when that doesn’t happen. This is especially important given the polarity and gridlock that we all see at the State and Federal levels. At the local government level, it should never be about politics, the focus should only be on policy – sound policy. The difference? Policy is about people. Politics are about personalities, and our community deserves better than that.
If there is one thing I have learned, it is that on any issues there are two sides, and that the best solution generally falls somewhere right in the middle. To find the middle ground, you must be willing to listen every step of the process. That is why it is called policymaking. In local government, we must stay ever vigilant in protecting that process. We must be always cautious of becoming complacent. We must not just meet the standard; we must go above and beyond. We have missed the mark as soon as people feel they have been disenfranchised. It is too late when people feel they have no other recourse because of the way the public process unfolded. I have seen those things happen firsthand, and I want to do my part to keep them from ever happening again.
As an Assembly member, I will work to ensure that all individuals and groups have the platform for their perspective to be heard and their ideas to be considered, whether I agree with it or not. To use a quote attributed to the French philosopher Voltaire, “I may disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it”. I believe sound policy is built through a robust public process and from the perspectives of many. Again, we should lean-in and consider diverse views and perspectives that differ from our own. One very simple litmus test we should use in local government is if it is good for one, it is good for all, and if it is not, then we should be the first to say it is unacceptable.
After I won my first School Board race, I sat down in an interview with KRBD and when they asked what motivated me, I told them my approach was that “People Matter Most”. Between then and now, my approach has not changed. As I have shared with you, I have made mistakes along the way. However, those mistakes and the lessons learned from those mistakes have provided me with a perspective that I would not exchange for the world. I am running for Borough Assembly because of what Ketchikan means to me.
We are an innovative and successful community because of the creativity and compassion of the people who live here. We find our strength through the stewardship and protection of all our resources, from the pristine natural resources around us, to the taxpayer-dollars we are entrusted with managing, to our most important and cherished resource: our children. Ketchikan, we find our resilience through reliance on others in our community. People from all walks of life. People at different stages in life. People of varying occupations, education, nationality, and religion. Each person with their own story that serves as a piece of Ketchikan’s story.
If you have voted for me before, I would like to humbly ask for your vote again. If you have not, I would be honored to earn your vote. We might not agree on all the issues. Heck, I have never found someone who agrees with me on everything! But we can disagree without being disagreeable. We can work together on the issues, even if we never have before. After all, government only works best for everyone when everyone shows up to demand the best from government. People Matter Most – if it is good for one, it must be good for all.
My commitment to you, if I have the honor to serve on the Ketchikan Gateway Borough Assembly, is to do everything in my power to protect that principle and put it at the forefront of everything we do. Our community deserves absolutely nothing less.
I would be humbled to have your vote on October 6th.
Paid for by Trevor Shaw for Borough Assembly
Received September 04, 2020 - Published September 06, 2020, 2020
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