Edna DeVries will be the next mayor of the Mat-Su Borough.
DeVries, who currently holds the seat as mayor in the city of Palmer, finished with 7,623 total votes, according to the unofficial tally released by the borough late Tuesday night, in a three-way race for mayor in the 2021 borough elections.
She will succeed Vern Halter, who has served the maximum number of two terms. DeVries will serve a term of three years and can run for one more three-year term.
Meanwhile, the city of Palmer will soon have a new mayor, too. When DeVries moves to the borough, Palmer’s current deputy mayor Steve Carrington will fill the vacated position until the next election.
There will be a vacancy on the council, for the seat Carrington now holds. Under new rules recently adopted by the city council Carrington will appoint a new council member subject only to a veto by four other members of the council.
The high turnout seemed mainly a result of Mat-Su’s conservative voters rallying to support DeVries, some local election observers said. The race also included former Mat-Su Borough assembly member Matthew Beck and former Wasilla mayor Bert Cottle, a six-year veteran in that position. Beck finished with 3,577 votes, while Cottle had 2,000.
Cottle’s race for mayor was hampered by a temporary halt in his campaigning due to heath reasons.
DeVries ran a strong campaign based on a long record as a conservative with substantial local and state government experience, which included being a former borough mayor and state senator as well as her current position as Palmer’s mayor.
There were 13,173 total votes cast in the Nov. 2 election, or 15 percent of registered local voters. That’s a high turnout for Mat-Su local election, which typically draw eight to 10 percent of voters.
The high turnout was likely a result of conservative voters rallying behind DeVries and turning out at the polls, some observers of local elections said.
There are 2,197 absentee and 753 questioned ballots yet to be counted, but it’s unlikely that results of the mayor’s race will be greatly affected.
The win by DeVries was expected but the scale of it caught many by surprise. The Palmer mayor has a loyal base among very conservative voters and early on it appeared likely that Cottle and Beck would split the more moderate voters, giving DeVries the edge.
Instead, she got more votes than both Cottle and Beck combined.
In the assembly races, one incumbent fell in three assembly districts with open seats and competing candidates. Ron Bernier, a Willow-area contractor, will replace Tam Boeve in District 7. Bernier finished with 1,192 total votes. Boeve had 737 votes.
The defeat for Boeve has surprised many. “Tam has delivered a lot to her Willow area district in new public services. Quite possibly she just isn’t conservative enough,” one observer said, asking to remain unidentified.
Bernier wdescribes himself as a strong supporter of gun rights and a “full” Permanent Fund Dividend, meaning one paid according to an obsolete formula in state law that can no longer be afforded.
Meanwhile, incumbent Jesse Sumner will retain his District 6 seat, earning 1,367 total votes. Kristi Short (563 votes) and Dick Clippard (133) placed second and third.
Dee McKee took the District 3 seat with 1,180 votes. Mark Bailey (427) and Ferdinand Kruger (198) were second and third.
Tom Bergey retained his seat on the Mat-Su School Board, defeating challenger Lori Berrigan 1,592-940 in the District 1 race.
Jubilee Underwood earned a win in the District 4 school board race with 846 votes. Jennifer Walther finished second with 413 votes.
Voters also strongly supported $61 million in transportation bonds to support new road projects. The vote was 8,363 in favor and 4,810 against. About twenty street and road improvement projects were on the ballot for approval.
The borough will also receive $10 million in state funds this year to support smaller road and highway projects.
In comments to the Frontiersman during the campaign, DeVries said that if elected she will put a priority on Mat-Su receiving its full entitlement of reimbursement for bonded school debt.
Due to budget pressures the state has made only a partial payment in recent years on promised debt support. Since the borough is obligated to make payments on the bonds when state support falls short the responsibility falls on Mat-Su to make up the difference.
DeVries also pointed to perceived disparities between state support for urban and rural schools.
“The Mat-Su Borough is growing and with that growth comes challenged and opportunities,” DeVries said in her prior comments published.
“The borough needs a ‘listening’ mayor, a take-charge ‘action’ mayor and results-oriented mayor,” she said.
Frontiersman managing editor Jeremiah Bartz contributed to this report. Contact the Frontiersman at email@example.com.