2019 Mat-Su Borough election

Borough and School Board Election Questionnaires

Candidates in the Nov. 5 election were asked by Frontiersman editorial staff to provide answers to five questions. Running for a seat on the Assembly in District 1 is Brian Endle, Tim Hale and Ryan Miller. LaMarr Anderson, Elizabeth Maxson and Stephanie Nowers are running in District 2. The Mat-Su Borough School District School Board has three seats up for reelection. Jeff Taylor is running unopposed for seat 7. Alma Hartley is running against current School Board member Ryan Ponder for seat 5. Jim Hart is running against current School Board member Ray Michaelson for seat 2.

Assembly District 1.

Brian Endle

Q:) What positive attributes would you bring to the School Board if elected?

A:) I am the true conservative candidate for the Borough Assembly District 1. I’m fiscally and socially conservative with a heart to serve borough residents. I have over 23 years experience in information technology, utilizing both supervisory and highly technical skills at companies like MTA and ConocoPhillips. Many of the teams I’ve worked on have focused on bringing highly complex projects to completion on time and on budget. I’ve also served 3 years on the Mat-Su Borough Planning Commission.

Q:) What is your hope to accomplish during the next term?

A:) I have three years history recorded on FaceBook bringing transparency to Borough issues. I will continue that effort pushing back against unnecessary taxes and regulations, beginning to deal with issues on the Matanuska river, and looking into economic development opportunities.

Q:)What is the main obstacle for the Assembly in the next two or three years, and how can the Assembly/School Board work through that?

A:) State funding has been greatly reduced impacting education, infrastructure and many state services. The Borough will have to assume a greater burden for the cost of government and our Assembly will need to prioritize items that benefit all residents to prevent increased taxes. It will also be important to work closely with the School Board to ensure that our taxpayer money is spent efficiently.

Q:)What ultimately compelled you to run for the Assembly?

A:) I chose to run for the assembly because I believe I can be a strong advocate for the people within my district and the borough. We need to have a government of the people, by the people, and for the people and I believe I can effectively serve in that role.

Q:) What personal accomplishment (or as part of an organization) are you most proud of during your time living in the Valley?

A:) I worked with members of our community in the Buffalo Mine/Soapstone area and we defeated an effort to zone our community which overwhelmingly lacked support. After our community replaced the previous board, I served as community council president and worked with community leaders to implement new by-laws voted on by the community. This role opened the opportunity to serve on the Borough Planning Commission for 3 years and participate in the 2016 and 2019 assembly races.

Tim Hale

Q:) What positive attributes would you bring to the Assembly if elected?

A:) As a lifelong working Alaskan, a heavy equipment operator and construction surveyor, I have worked on projects all over our Valley and State. On the job, I am the designated problem solver, not because I have all the answers, but because I will do the work to find them. This has taught me that to find the best solution, we need to listen and work with everyone, regardless of background or ideology. I have never been a member of a political party, and I want to be the kind of assemblyman who listens, and takes your concerns seriously, no matter what side of the political divide you are on, and I will work to bring our community together to address our problems, rather than pushing a partisan or personal agenda.

Q:) What is your hope to accomplish during the next term?

A:) I plan to be an advocate for our community and will work to solve everyday community problems, including finding a solution to the “Compound” area in Butte, ensuring our roads and infrastructure are well planned and meet community needs, promoting responsible spending to avoid tax hikes, and most importantly, ensuring the people have a voice on our Assembly. I will work to create an online checkbook so everyone can see what we are spending our money on, allowing folks to call in to meetings to give their two cents, and establishing a Citizens Advisory Committee on the Budget, to find out what we are doing well, what we are doing poorly, and what we are wasting our money on.

Q:)What is the main obstacle for the Assembly in the next two or three years, and how can the Assembly/School Board work through that?

A:)The main obstacles are related to the State’s fiscal problems. There is a lot of uncertainty moving forward and the Assembly will be faced with some tough choices over the next several years. That is why I am pushing to create a more responsive, accessible and engaged local government. By bringing more members of our community into the decision making process, we are going to be able to come up with the best possible solutions and outcomes.

Q:) What ultimately compelled you to run for the Assembly?

A:) We are going to face some serious obstacles over the next few years and we are going to need an assemblyman who can work to bring our community together if we are going to overcome these and come out stronger. I believe I have what it takes to help ensure a bright future for our community.

Q:) What personal accomplishment (or as part of an organization) are you most proud of during your time living in the Valley?

A:)There is so much I am proud of. From my work on the board of the Butte Community Council, to the hundreds of hours I have spent at Assembly and committee meetings calling on the Borough the be more accountable and accessible. From the construction projects I have been a part of across our Valley, to the time I spent fighting the Miller’s Reach fire in 1996. My proudest moment so far was marrying the love of my life and closing on our home in Butte in August. I am looking forward to everything that we as a community can accomplish as we work together to solve our problems and ensure a bright future for every resident.

Ryan Miller

Q:) What positive attributes would you bring to the Assembly if elected?

A:) I am an Army Combat Veteran that has had the opportunity to work on civil projects in the worst war- torn communities in the world. I live by the values and leadership the Military has instilled in me. Given I am retired, I have ample time to address issues our district and borough faces as well as not letting constituents’ opinions fall on deaf ears.

Q:) What is your hope to accomplish during the next term?

A:) I think some of the larger issues facing us this term are the completion of the Port MacKenzie project, dealing with the crime prevention issue before it gets worse, which I believe is largely contributed by the opioid crisis. The only real way to defeat this would be to find funding and educational resources for more rehabilitation beds as well as the staff to run them. Native cultures program into our elementary classrooms that includes language to help keep them alive outside the many dialects our great state has. We need to insure that “drag queen story hour” is never apart of our borough library programs, or that young boys and girls biologically given gender is what prevails in the bathrooms to the sports sports teams.

3) What is the main obstacle for the Assembly in the next two or three years, and how can the Assembly/School Board work through that?

Q:) What is the main obstacle for the Assembly in the next two or three years, and how can the Assembly/School Board work through that?

A:) I think one of the biggest issues facing the valley is crime, and weather or not to install our own police force to deal with the lackluster response to 911 calls, which I believe stems from the opioid epidemic. After talking with psychiatrists, law enforcement, and rehabilitation professionals, it is my opinion that we need to take care of the root cause. We don’t have enough beds for rehabilitation, and it’s a fact that locking up addicts without treatment just exacerbates the problem and typically keeps the addict cycling through the system. Rather than wondering who is ultimately going to pay for a new police force, we should write and acquire federal grants and funding to expand opportunity for those in our community that need this help.

Q:) What ultimately compelled you to run for the Assembly?

A:) I was livid when the assembly voted to remove the veteran’s memorial without insuring it was all carefully relocated. Ashes of family members were left behind angering many in the veteran community. I took that as our veterans not having enough representation in the valley. I was also upset at the thought of the EPA possibly trying to influence the Assembly to set there agenda, we now see the wood burning regulations being rolled back in Fairbanks, which was a waste of money that could have benefited more productive programs.

Q:) What personal accomplishment (or as part of an organization) are you most proud of during your time living in the Valley?

A:) I am most happy with my time as a Lion, With the Lions Club, I have recently been able to go to Elementary schools in the valley where we screen 100’s of children for eye problems, we serve members of the 4H auction at the State Fair, we helped via donations for the McKinley Fire. I am also a lifetime member of the VFW and was honored with award of the Department of Defense’s Military Outstanding Volunteer Service Medal.

Assembly District 2.

LaMarr Anderson

Q:) What positive attributes would you bring to the Assembly if elected?

A:) Extensive community service and experience with Borough and community service organizations and Boards over the past fifteen years. Awareness of a wide spectrum of community issues/concerns, governing processes, combined with a deliberative listening style and reputation for listening and being open and deliberative to all sides of issues among wide spectrum of viewpoints and political philosophies.

Q:) What is your hope to accomplish during the next term?

A:) We need to insure there is careful considerations of how to prepare for inevitable growth…and its consequences….not only considering the needs/desires today, but our long term community best interests. Supporting economic and resource development, and infrastructure development is critical to sustain economic development and providing jobs. The Assembly and Borough School Board need to seek collaborative and supportive ways for providing what teachers say would be most beneficial to them for supporting their class-room work to improve students’ learning, and to prove to funding taxpayers that their hard-earned monies are being used with utmost vigilance and effectiveness.

Q:) What is the main obstacle for the Assembly in the next two or three years, and how can the Assembly work through that?

A:) The Borough has important and critical obligations in addition to school/education support. Budget and tax-cap level spending considerations and government size must recognize taxpayer interest and impact. At the same time the Borough needs to prudently maintain a capability to address surprise, unexpected needs…particularly since in the coming years the Borough and our communities face challenges resulting from State financial matters. How best to address public safety issues will be a challenge. Infrastructure needs for school pathways, transit, road system improvements, and various other community quality of life issues will all also present needs. The challenge is meeting such needs and being responsive to citizens, but also firmly controlling financial strings to ensure efficiencies and responsible decisions that respect and protect the right and interest of private citizens and taxpayers. Borough staff and leaders must listen to citizens and collaborate with them in formulating policies and recommendations.

Q:) What ultimately compelled you to run for the Assembly?

A:) I so enjoy and appreciate the great history, great people and passioned desires for the future of our Borough community. I’m a candidate because our capable current Assembly person reached his terms limit and I was asked by various community citizens and leaders from a wide spectrum of backgrounds who have observed and worked with me in the community. They identified the attributes I presented in the earlier question as the reason they wanted me to be a candidate. I don’t have a pre-set agenda. Rather, I want to offer District 2 a careful and thoughtful assembly member who is effective in carefully evaluating issues and challenges. I’m not someone with quick-ready pre-set answers….I carefully listen and deliberate. On numerous boards I’ve served I thought that I had come to a conclusion regarding an issue, but when I heard thoughts of others, either via public comment or those of board members, the additional information propelled me to make a better, sometimes different decision. I think these are the traits needed for the Borough Assembly body.

Q:) What personal accomplishment (or as part of an organization) are you most proud of during your time living in the Valley

A:) 2015 Palmer Citizen of the Year, Serving on Borough Transportation Advisory and Platting Boards….and enjoy playing my cello in various local music groups and community musicals.

Stephanie Nowers

Q:) What positive attributes would you bring to the Assembly if elected?

A:) If you grew up in a military family, you know what I mean when I say you learn to adapt. Before I was six years old, our family had moved four times: from Colorado to Maryland to Taiwan to Seattle. I learned how to quickly find my way around a new place and make new friends. In my family, I was also taught personal responsibility, to work hard, be honest, watch your pennies, and be respectful to others (especially adults). The five of us - myself and four brothers - had lots of freedom, but we also knew there were rules and consequences if we stepped out of line. Our families shape who we are as people, and I feel blessed to have grown up in a loving family that provided structure and good role models. Those values are now ones I strive to apply every day in my life as a small business owner, community volunteer, neighbor and parent. On the Assembly, I will bring these values plus my experience and commitment of being an involved Valley resident for the past 25 years.

Q:) What is your hope to accomplish during the next term?

A:) A major priority will be increasing the number of good-paying local jobs. With some notable exceptions, the Mat-Su has little commercial and industrial development or manufacturing. This limits our tax base, results in dollars flowing out of our community as people buy Outside, and forces people to commute for work. By growing more local jobs, we can also help address some of our other chronic problems like crime and homelessness.

Q:) What is the main obstacle for the Assembly in the next two or three years, and how can the Assembly work through that?

A:) We need to work on expanding our tax base and with tight budgets, we’ll need to get creative. We can work with the community to bring down barriers. That could mean identifying new niche industries, investing in broadband Internet, giving more support to existing industries, or finding other ways to lower costs and make it easier for new businesses to get off the ground.

Q:) What ultimately compelled you to run for the Assembly?

A:) When my husband and I moved here in 1995, we lived in a solar-powered log cabin and hauled water in jugs we filled at the laundromat in Palmer. We loved it. We loved the sense of community, the history, the can-do spirit and the opportunity and freedom to do what you wanted. All that is still here. But we also face some tough challenges with crime, a rampant drug problem, a lack of good-paying jobs, and, as more people move here, increasing demands on public services like emergency response, as well as a feeling our freedom is disappearing. Addressing these challenges is why I want to be a District 2 Assemblyperson.

Q:) What personal accomplishment (or as part of an organization) are you most proud of during your time living in the Valley?

A:) I’m most proud of our two daughters. Their successes are hopefully a testament to our work as parents, but also to our schools and the many people in the community who have coached, taught and hired them. The Mat-Su is an amazing place with many people and groups who have contributed to make it that way, some with very little fanfare. I would be honored to help continue to build it.

School Board Seat 2.

Jim Hart

Q:) What positive attributes would you bring to the School Board if elected?

A:) My belief in accountability. Too often, we see systems put in place in government only to be ignored or put on auto-pilot. We can never afford to do this with education. The school board’s mission is to supervise the superintendent; who supervises the principals; who supervises the teachers. If the district can’t get to a place where our students are performing on par with schools in other states, the school board should go into crisis mode. Instead, what we see is a congratulatory attitude because the Valley schools are outperforming our Anchorage counterparts. Anchorage isn’t the standard, literacy at grade level is the standard, and we haven’t achieved that. I believe holding people accountable for results (good and bad) is the only way to improve.

Q:) What is your hope to accomplish during the next term?

A:) My hope is to see our kids’ literacy improve significantly. If they can read, they can learn; if they can learn, they can think; and if they can think, our way of life is much more secure. When I look at the district’s documents, I expect to see long-term goals laid out in a strategic plan with measurable objectives showing how our kids’ performance will improved. The superintendent is accountable for those goals; I also expect her to hold the district accountable.

Q:) What is the main obstacle for the MSBSD in the next two or three years, and how can the School Board work through that?

A:) Business as usual is an obstacle for any organization. It’s human nature to rest in ruts — ruts are comfortable and predictable, and they tend to suck you back in if nothing is pushing you out. If school board standards improve, the school district improves.

Q:) What ultimately compelled you to run for the School Board?

A:) Kids are unable to read or perform in math at grade level. This is a crisis, and I’m compelled to serve.

Q:) What personal accomplishment (or as part of an organization) are you most proud of during your time living in the Valley?

A:) My kids. Both are Colony H.S. graduates. My daughter graduated Norwich University suma cum laude with two degrees and was the Army component commander her last semester. She’s currently on the captains list. My son just graduated from the University of Alaska and is an electrical engineer, arguably one of the hardest degrees to earn – needless to say, he is very literate in math. Both of these accomplished children involved God’s blessing and teamwork between me, my wife, and the school system. I value a solid education for all of our kids, and that includes technical training.

Ray Michaelson

Q:) What positive attributes would you bring to the School Board if elected?

A:) A rational approach to problem solving with prior years of service and knowledge about the issues facing our district.

Q:) What is your hope to accomplish during the next term?

A:) Begin implementing the School District's strategic plan and balancing the FY21 school budget despite an uncertain fiscal climate.

Q:) What is the main obstacle for the MSBSD in the next two or three years, and how can the School Board work through that?

A:) Sufficient and predictable school funding at the state and local level. The board must work in partnership with the administration as we address this important issue.

Q:) What ultimately compelled you to run for the School Board?

A:) During my professional career I have been involved in many projects surrounding youth development in a variety of areas including education, juvenile justice, youth sports, etc. As a professional and as a parent of three adult children who successfully completed their education here in Mat-Su, I felt motivated to use those experiences in my service on the school board.

Q:) What personal accomplishment (or as part of an organization) are you most proud of during your time living in the Valley?

A:) Seeing my three kids grow-up in the Valley and become successful after taking advantage of all the programs and opportunities the school district had to offer.

School Board Seat 5.

Alma Hartley

Q:) What positive attributes would you bring to the School Board if elected?

A:) I feel that I would bring a fresh perspective to the school board. I am a mom of three boys, 10, 12, & 14, and I worked for our school district for four years. I have experience from being on the Houston City Council for five years as well. When you’re up against a wall all you need is someone who thinks about the situation differently to find the solution.

Q:) What is your hope to accomplish during the next term?

A:) My goal for the next term is to get current and fair contracts for all of our employees set and in place. Our employees are some of the hardest working people that I know and they deserve a contract that reflects that and they can rely on.

Q:) What is the main obstacle for MSBSD in the next two or three years, and how can the School Board work through that?

A:) Right now, besides contracts, the main obstacle is Houston Jr/Sr and how the middle school is going to get replaced. By being diligent in our research, ensuring that all of the ground is tested for safety, and that we give our kids the best school that we can. This also ensures that we get these kiddos out of the portables and back into a school where they should be.

We’ve also got to figure out what we can do to ease these growing class sizes. While, by myself, the solution is unclear, I feel that together with the rest of the board we can figure it out and give our kids an easier time in their learning environment.

Q:) What ultimately compelled you to run for the School Board?

A:) I was encouraged to run for the School Board after having worked for the district for the last four years. I started as a substitute the year prior to that time and I have been in the classrooms, worked with these teachers, taught these kids, and seen my coworkers and sometimes myself going home in tears because they are so exhausted and there isn’t anything else that they can do for a kiddo that is having a hard time. Helping kids is in my heart and soul. Special Education kiddos are truly where I feel pulled the most as two of our three sons have Autism and ADHD. I also have a successful adult family member that has Asperger’s Syndrome. It doesn’t matter what the challenge is, you can be successful. Just believe in yourself.

Q:) What personal accomplishment (or as part of an organization) are you most proud of during your time living in the Valley?

A:) I feel most accomplished after having had five great years on the Houston City Council. We worked well together and were able to get a lot of things completed for the city.

Ryan Ponder

Q:) What positive attributes would you bring to the Assembly/School Board if elected?

A:) Approachable, undaunted, action taker –A member of the school board acts as the bridge between the community and the school district. During my time serving on the school board I have listened to and addressed a number of concerns community members have brought before me and will continue to do so.

Q:) What is your hope to accomplish during the next term?

A:) During the next three years I want to see an end to the practice of teachers receiving notice at the end of the school year indicating that they may not have a job at the beginning of the next year. I want to ensure the student to teacher ratio is kept as low as possible. I want to see our districts test scores improved significantly and I want to ensure a safe (physical, mental, and emotional) learning environment is afforded to every student in the district.

Q:) What is the main obstacle for the MSBSD in the next two or three years, and how can the School Board work through that?

A:) As the state budget is balanced the main obstacle will likely be the district facing budget cuts. I believe the School board can review the budget six ways from Sunday so as to ensure teachers retain their job and the student to teacher ratios are not increased. This past spring I proposed a volunteer committee of financial experts, from our community, be organized to review, discuss, and apply innovations to our district’s budget. I will continue to propose such a committee. I was also skeptical of, and questioned, two line items in the proposed 2019-2020 budget which ultimately led to the discovery that these line items could be reduced by a total of $1.6 million. Every line item will need to be scrutinized so as to ensure formulas are updated, each expenditure is necessary, our teachers are retained, and student to teacher ratio is not increased.

Q:) What ultimately compelled you to run for the School Board?

A:) The ensure the safety, well being, and academic success of my children and every other child within our community.

Q:) What personal accomplishment (or as part of an organization) are you most proud of during your time living in the Valley?

A:) Hands down and without question, the personal accomplishment I am most proud of while living in the Valley, has been receiving the title of Father four times over. This was made possible by my dear wife of twelve years who was born and raised in Alaska.

School Board Seat 7.

Jeff Taylor

Q:) What positive attributes would you bring to the School Board if elected?

A:) I bring many years of experiences with youth, and recognize the importance of education. I bring 35+ years of business development experience. I am an experienced communicator, listener, and negotiator. I bring a strong financial management background. I bring values that lead me to serve others and work hard.

Q:) What is your hope to accomplish during the next term?

A:) I hope to bring a stronger sense of urgency that family and community must be involved in the educational processes. I hope to assist in making critical financial decisions that focus on the betterment of the students and provides THE BEST educational opportunities. I hope to hold accountable those who have stewardship roles in our educational system. I hope to assist in developing contracts and agreements which give students the best teachers possible. I hope to assist in developing an educational culture that enhances the opportunities for our students to become their best, to become self-reliant, and gives them a desire to be a benefit to our society.

Q:) What is the main obstacle for the MSBSD in the next two or three years, and how can the School Board work through that?

A:) We must operate within a budget that increases the educational opportunities of our children, gives teachers the tools and incentives to better their profession, and provide safety for our children while in our care. To do this will require "out-of-the-box" type thinking. Outside professional may be consulted. The Board must be the leader in bringing together all parties (parents, teachers, administrators, board members, and students) to be part of the process, and bring them together in a way that focuses on desired outcomes. The Board must be united in financial priorities and exercise what powers it has to stay focused on those priorities. The Board must work with other governmental entities to responsibly obtain funding to carry out the educational goals of the community at large.

Q:) What ultimately compelled you to run for the School Board?

A:) I was compelled by my family (My wife, 6 children, 3 children-in-law, 5 grandchildren, Father, Mother, 2 Brothers and their wives, 1 sister and her husband, 13 nieces and nephews). Members of our family have been involved in the school district since 1983. We are students (past, present and future), teachers and teachers’ aides, coaches, athletes, band and choir members, PTA members, booster club members, and volunteers. I am surrounded by people who champion youth. The earthquake in November 2018, which severely damaged Houston Middle School, created an urgency to use my experiences now.

Q:) What personal accomplishment (or as part of an organization) are you most proud of during your time living in the Valley?

A:) My greatest accomplishment lies within the walls of our home. I am proud of my family and the people they are. Their values and desires have led to many good things within the Matsu Valley. The walls of our home expanded to include community involvement, which led to great relationships with community members young and old. Our walls expanded further when I joined my brother, and his wife, in the development of Taylor Fire Protection Services, LLC. Many relationships with employees, clients, and vendors have been created because of this endeavor. My legacy is in my family and the relationships developed through life’s opportunities. Whether this is an accomplishment or a blessing, it is what I am most grateful for.

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