Fairbanks voters ousted incumbent City Councilman Jonathan Bagwill Tuesday and elected in his place challenger Kathryn Ottersten, according to unofficial vote tallies. Voters also re-elected City Councilwoman June Rogers to what will be her first full term. And they elected newcomer Shoshana Kun to the seat formerly occupied by Joy Huntington, who declined to run for re-election.
Rogers is a businesswoman who formerly headed up the Fairbanks Arts Association. She says she hopes to continue her advocacy for social service programs during her upcoming term.
“I’ve started working with the Opioid Task Force and the prisoner re-entry programs, housing and homeless (and) the Mental Health Trust Programs that we’ve received some grants for,” Rogers said in an interview Tuesday evening.
Rogers says the city supports those programs through in-kind donations such as office space, but they don’t get any city funding. So she says those programs likely wouldn’t suffer budget cuts in the coming year that some city officials say will be required. And she says there are some bright spots on the city’s ledgers, such as revenue the Building Department has generated through fees for building permits and other services.
“We just heard from the Building Department today – a wonderful report about for the last 12 of 15 years, they’ve had revenues beyond their expenses,” she said.
Rogers defeated a challenge by former City Councilman Lloyd Hilling and Marcey Luther, a marketing manager and freelance writer.
Kun is grad student studying social work. She says as a City Council member, she’ll do what she did during the campaign – listen to people’s concerns, especially those who have a hard time being heard.
“Those that’ve been disenfranchised – the vulnerable, the voiceless, the ones who say ‘I don’t vote, because my vote doesn’t matter,’ ” she said.
Kun says she’s met many of those people around town. She says she’ll let them know they’re welcome in City Hall, and that they’ve got an advocate on the council.
“There is a large percentage of people that don’t feel heard, don’t feel that they can even approach their City Council members,” she said. “So it’s important to have individuals that are humble, that are willing to listen and that are willing to execute on what they hear.”
Kun says her first priority will be to dive into the city’s budget. She says her long-term goal is to promote transparency and accountability in the council’s operations. She says she’d like to begin with by ensuring council committees release public documents like minutes of meetings as soon as possible, starting with the finance committee.
“This morning, finance committee meeting, 7 a.m. – a lot of people aren’t up, and there is no public testimony given,” she said. “But there also are no minutes. Which makes it very difficult.”
Kun beat Andrew Thompson and Jim Clark to win a three-year council term.