SitNews - Stories in the News - Ketchikan, Alaska


Leigh Gerber

Ketchikan Borough Assembly
3-year terms - Two Seats Open


Published: September 27, 2010
Received: September 24, 2010

jpg Leigh Gerber

I believe that we currently have good government in the Borough Assembly and that good governance needs to be maintained and strengthened in the future. That requires candidates with experience, and I have that experience.

I was recently asked when it was I decided to become a politician and I replied "15 years ago when I became a fish plant manager." The duties of each position have many similarities: Both deal with people who don't always agree on the best way forward in a given issue. Both fishermen and citizens want to talk with people who are straight shooters, who keep their word, who simply tell the truth as they see it. In the fishing community I have that reputation for telling the truth, for not deceiving, and making the right decision at the end. I will bring these same strengths and values to the assembly.

A major part of any assembly member's job is the ability to read and analyze budgets. There are the annual budgets that guide the general operations of the borough, and those special projects or ideas that come up from time to time. I am experienced at putting budgets together and tearing them apart. If one thing can be said for the seafood industry it's that every year is different and we have to build a new plan and budget to meet the challenges of each year. Changes in the catch during the year demand the ability to make correct decisions about changes in the budgets. It is vital for assembly members to understand budgets and critical to good government to know how and why to change them.

In facing those budget issues, here are some areas of most concern or interest to me that will help guide my decisions:

First of all I strongly believe in fiscal conservative government with good reserves and a budget that is small in size. Government cannot be eliminated from our lives, but its size and scope can be limited. If a program or department doesn't create a positive for the public then it should be trimmed or eliminated. That's the broad brush belief -- that government should live within its means and not raise taxes. Government is necessary -- small government with fewer restrictions and cost is best.

That said there are some things I think are worth doing and paying for as a community. The borough is charged with area-wide economic development responsibilities. It is my belief that government can create infrastructure that either enhances the economy or throws up obstructions to that same economy. To grow jobs we should:

1) Develop support structures for the mariculture Industry. OceansAlaska is building a research facility that will be the hub of the local Southern Southeast mariculture industry. It will offer research into growing geoducks, oysters, mussels and sea cumbers in Southern Southeast. It will offer training for those who want to start farms. It is starting construction this winter and I believe this will quickly develop into a major industry employing dozens in and around our borough. Projected cost to the borough is less than $450,000.

2) The "Year of the Artist" is a great effort to market local artists' works. Working in the seafood industry, why do I believe in promoting art? As a comparison example, years ago the state government created and funded the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute, a seafood marketing program. The organization had "so-so" success until control over it was given to the fishing industry -- processors and fisherman. Since that time that same body has had tremendous success with its "Wild Alaska" campaign resulting in increased dock prices for fishermen over the last few years. I believe that as structured the "Year of the Artist" is that same type of program that will allow local artist to find the most effective marketing tools for their wares.

3) Outlying Borough communities need improvements like docks, water, sewer, and other infrastructure. Those improvements are now the responsibility of the Borough. I will support those projects where practical projects and funding are brought before the assembly.

4) That brings us to schools. Adequately funding the education of our youth will help them carry our community into the future. The budget process is initiated by the school board. It is the assembly's job to analyze those numbers, looking for fluff or expanded line items, and then determine the borough funding for the year. I will support reasonable budgets minus the fluff. Our schools have been steadily improving, but still have a ways to go. We should have discussions about closed campus, better drug intervention, and classes in community responsibilities. At Chamber of Commerce lunches I have often heard the complaint that fees for after-school use, sport or civic activities are too high and slow or stop those very programs that lead our youth to a sense of community. I will be asking how those rates are set and how they can be lowered.

As a community "we build our future each day." We have a vibrant community and that will continue to be remarkable in all its facets as long as you are engaged in the day-to-day energy that makes a community. That engagement requires understanding the issues and candidates in elections and most of all getting out and voting. Please exercise your right to vote. Like all exercise it feels best when over and you know you did your part.

Those are my thoughts this election season. When elected I will always be willing to talk about assembly matters with all members of the public. I ask for your vote and look forward to serving on the assembly.


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SitNews 2010
Stories In The News
Ketchikan, Alaska