With election day rapidly approaching, the two borough assembly candidates from Seward are touring the Kenai Peninsula to push for votes.
Brandii Holmdahl and Kenn Carpenter, the candidates, have been attending the meetings throughout the unincorporated communities to meet voters and discuss community issues. The district that includes Seward, District 6, reaches across the east side of the peninsula to include communities from Hope to Moose Pass to the eastern edge of Sterling.
Holmdahl, a corporate quality manager for Icicle Seafoods, grew up in Soldotna and lived in Sterling and Nikiski before relocating to Seward for work four years ago. Almost immediately, she said she began to notice that issues in Seward were poorly represented on the other side of the peninsula, where the governmental activity takes place.
“I remember how very seldom I ever thought about Seward and the east side of the peninsula,” Holmdahl said. “Now that I’ve lived here for four years, I see the impact that makes, being so far from where decisions are made.”
She cited the example of the recently formed Healthcare Task Force that meets in Soldotna. Of the committee’s nine members, only one is from Seward and one is from Homer — the rest are from the immediate Kenai and Soldotna areas.
“Considering that this area is about 7,000 people and is the most underserved health care area, I think that shows it,” Holmdahl said. “(That is an example) of how the consideration is skewed to the other side of the peninsula.”
Current Seward assembly representative Sue McClure will leave office after reaching the term limit, moving immediately into a position on the Seward city council, she said.
After the borough redistricting in 2011, District 6 includes the eastern part of Sterling. The town is then divided between two assembly representatives — at present, between representatives Stan Welles and McClure.
“It’s kind of bittersweet always to be term-limited out,” McClure said at a Sept. 23 Sterling community meeting.
Carpenter attended the meeting to meet voters. Originally from Eagle River, which is part of the Municipality of Anchorage, he said he appreciated Sterling residents’ ability to communicate.
“I’m from a small town and the reason I moved out ten years ago was because it became Anchorage, and Anchorage was too big,” Carpenter said. “I think the small town community is fantastic.”
Carpenter, who is raising his 4-year-old grandson with his wife in Seward, is a procurement officer with the Alaska Institute of Technology. He said he planned to go door-to-door in the outlying communities to meet voters before the election.
Providing a voice to the communities and addressing issues of property taxes, right-of-ways and property ownership are the main issues to Carpenter, according to the information he submitted to the borough.
Holmdahl said she was not able to attend the Sterling meeting but said she intended to go to the other community meetings in District 6. She said one of the main issues facing Seward is finding the room to grow — literally. The city is currently engaged in a project to expand its freight docks, which will likely bring jobs to the area. With jobs come families, and with families come the need for more residential property, which Seward does not have much of, Holmdahl said.
If Holmdahl is elected, she will enter a minority of women in the assembly — currently, representative Kelly Cooper from Homer is the only other woman on the assembly, and no other women are running in this election cycle. But Holmdahl, the mother of three teenagers and member of the Seward Rotary club, said she is used to it.
“For me, that’s kind of par for the course,” Holmdahl said. “I work in seafood, and I have for 20 years. I became a plant manager in the seafood industry when I was 29, and I served on the governor’s legislative task force for the seafood industry when I was that young. I’ve spent my whole life being one of the only woman in the room.”
Reach Elizabeth Earl at email@example.com.