MAT-SU — Among other things, on Tuesday Mat-Su Borough voters will weigh in on who should be seated at the School Board’s decision-making table.

No matter how you slice it, at least one new face will be seated on that body when the dust has cleared. Here’s a rundown of who is in this contest and, if you want even more information, nearly all of these candidates have Facebook pages:

Seat A

Debby Retherford

Retherford is just one of three people running in this incumbent-less race. She said she’s been considering a run for the board for a while now.

“My son’s in third grade now. I’ve been spending one day a week volunteering in his class and I’ve been going to the school board meetings,” she said. “Sitting out there in the audience a lot of times I don’t think that questions are being asked that are popping into my head so I figure I better sit up there so I can ask all these questions that pop into my head.”

She said she has worked with groups advocating for school bond propositions and just generally has a passion for public education. She said she finds it frustrating to see music, physical education and library funding shrink each time there’s a budget shortfall.

“We’re not using the voice we have, I think, to really get what we need out of Juneau, to force the state to make education a priority, to fund it at the beginning of the session rather than at the end, to fund it adequately,” she said.  

Retherford said she also thinks the school board needs to take another look at electing members by district.

“Every other form of representational government we have, it’s the representatives’ jobs to know their area inside and out, to know their area, to bring those needs forward to the greater body that they belong to and of course make decisions that are best for the body and not for their area.”

Steven Impson

Impson owns and operates Adventures in Pediatrics with his pediatrician wife. He said he’s running, among other things, to address increases in teacher-student ratios.

“The Valley has done a pretty good job in facing the growth that we have had over the past decade or so,” he said, “But I don’t think the staffing needs were addressed in conjunction with that.”

He said he thinks staffing levels are inadequate. His fourth-grade daughter has 32 kids in her class at Pioneer Peak Elementary and, he said, his impression is that’s not uncommon.

Impson is building up credits hoping to get into a bachelor’s program for political science in Arizona University’s online program. He and his wife volunteer with local non-profits like Valley Performing Arts — where he’s been an actor — and Mat-Su Concert Band — where he plays saxophone.

“I love children, period, and I just see this as a good opportunity to try to put my best foot forward and put myself in a position where I can maybe help them out,” Impson said.

Aimee Kopp

Kopp gave a relatively succinct answer when asked why she’s running:

“I’m running for school board because I recognize a need for a quality education that is fiscally responsible in the Valley,” she said.

She said she isn’t in the race with any kind of agenda, there are no pet issues she’s looking to tackle. Indeed, asked about the school bonds, her immediate reply was,

“Right now I’m not going to make any specific comments on where we should or should not put schools because I haven’t sat on those committees.”

But she followed that up with, “I definitely think we need to keep it about the kids and putting the schools where the kids are.”

Kopp lives in Houston and said she thinks that it’s a good idea to have school board representatives from areas other than Wasilla and Palmer.

At any rate, Kopp said she wants to work on issues that people with an interest in education think are important.

“I want to be an ear for parents students and teachers and hear their input,” she said.

Seat B

Sarah Welton

Welton is the incumbent, running for a fourth time and her fifth term (she served a few months of an appointed term when she first arrived on the board).

She said she enjoys the work and has a passion for it.

“I feel that education is the tide that lifts all boats, it equalizes, it brings about the ability for people to improve who they are, and where they” Welton said. “If you are a lifelong learner, no matter what life throws at you, you will be able to survive and maybe survive with a lot of good attitude and quality of life.”

A doctoral candidate at age 60, she said she counts herself as a lifelong learner. As far as goals she’d like to accomplish if she’s returned to the body, Welton has a few.

“The thing to accomplish would be to reduce the class size as far as mechanics of teaching and to improve the quality of teaching through professional development which we’ve been doing but we can always do more,” she said.

But mostly, she said, the community dictates her goals. What does the community think is important for schools to teach?

“We really do need to know what the community says in the most important things for them and that is our job,” she said.

Heather Fussell

Fussell lives in Wasilla and home-schools her children through the district’s Twindly Bridge Charter School.

“I just think that we need to do better for our children here and for our taxpayers and for our educators,” she said of why she’s running. “I have some ideas for how to control education costs and how to move dollars into the classroom.”

She said she plans to be a strong advocate for both home schooled and traditionally schooled children.

“Who knows? We might make the decision to enter into our neighborhood schools here and I just want to make,” she said.

As for the recent school bonds, she said she thinks it’s good the Valley is keeping up.

“The Valley is growing,” she said and as the fastest growing community in the state, “I definitely think we need to keep up with that and have some quality schools being built and also keep up with the maintenance of our schools that we have now.”

Contact reporter Andrew Wellner at or 352-2270.

(2) comments


Whomever is contributing taxes to fund our public education system should be eligible to run for the school board, and be involved in making the decisions regarding our schools. We live in a community that has managed to uphold education choice for all families and offers a myriad of opportunities for educating children. Our school district has numerous successful charter schools, including two that allow for parents to oversee their child's education with in their own home. These programs are still part of the public school system. Two excellent candidates are great examples of the benefits of school choice as they both have participated in the education of their children through home schooling. I believe they both would bring a fresh voice to the board that would lend to new ideas to help improve our schools. Both Aimee Kopp & Heather Fussell will be getting my vote.


It appears Andrew neglected to include part of our conversation including the facts that I have lived in the MatSu Valley for seven years, I have three children enrolled in the school district and I have been very involved in the community, especially with youth and children. I have been a den mother for the Big Lake Cub Scouts for years, I have organized the children's activities at Houston Founder's Day for four years, I serve on the children's committee at my church and I served on the Board of Directors for MatSu Health Services for two years. He was accurate in saying that I am running for School Board to support quality education and fiscal responsibility... because I have a great concern for the youth and children of the Valley as demonstrated by my years of community service and involvement.
Although I did not mention it to Andrew, I also have a degree in Physical Therapy and worked as a Physical Therapsit in Washington before choosing to stay home with my children.

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