John Osenga is running for one of two vacancies on the Seward City Council. He currently works in business maintenance and serves on the council, to which he was elected in 2018, and is also a council member and the council president of the Qutekcak Native Tribe.
Osenga said during an interview with the Clarion at the Seward Community Library and Museum on Aug. 27 that what first called him to the city council was a sense of “civic duty” and a desire to improve the way things were going in Seward. In running for reelection, he said he hopes to continue what he said was a positive trajectory of city council accomplishments.
“I (feel) that our council over the last three years has accomplished quite a bit, and I would like to continue that,” Osenga said.
He and his wife are lifelong residents of Seward and have four kids, all of whom graduated from Seward High School. As a lifelong resident of Seward, Osenga said something that really stands out to him is how much the city has changed over the years, especially as it relates to summer tourism.
“This town never (used to) shut down in the winter,” Osenga said. “Everything was open year-round. Of course, there weren’t nearly as many B&Bs then. It’s just a big difference and I think that’s something that has to change.”
Osenga said he’d like to see the city become more year-round by attracting year-round business that could co-exist with the tourism industry and with cruise ships.
“I think they can both coexist and we could actually have a year-round economy and a thriving summer tourism season,” Osenga said. “But right now, I think what we’re just lacking is that year-round (piece). The potential for something to be year-round here is where we’re lacking, so I’m hoping that we’d be able to just move that up without being detrimental to tourism.”
Among Osenga’s other priorities in serving on the council, he said, are addressing the city’s aging infrastructure and creating more year-round housing opportunities. That’s in addition to responding to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, which he said the city has been “spot on” in responding to.
Osenga praised Seward’s distribution of COVID relief funds to businesses and nonprofits and said that the city has done a good job of trying to mitigate the virus’ spread while not over-mandating or over-regulating. Now, Osenga said he hopes the city can “turn the corner” of the pandemic naturally, but that moving beyond COVID-19 and the highly contagious delta variant will be a community effort.
“Everyone, please do (your) part: get vaccinated, wear masks, stay socially distant,” Osenga said. “Everyone just needs to really step up. The city can of course advocate for that, which they’ve been doing I think.”
In reflecting on what perspective he thinks he currently brings to the council, Osenga said he works to make sure things are done “properly” and to balance the best interests of Seward residents with what city administrators want and what other council members want.
“I just try to look and see (what) I think works best for all the different entities in the city and then just try to voice an opinion and hopefully help push something in a positive, forward direction.”
The municipal election is on Oct. 5.
Reach reporter Ashlyn O’Hara at email@example.com.