W. Anchorage Assembly vacancy draws four applicants so far; deadline Monday

rshinohara@adn.comDecember 28, 2012 

— A former city budget director, a former School Board member, a retired school teacher and a civic activist are among candidates competing for an appointment to replace Harriet Drummond in a West Anchorage Assembly seat.

Drummond was elected to the state House, and will resign from the Assembly in early January.

The Assembly will appoint a replacement for Drummond first thing at its Jan. 15 meeting, said Assembly chairman Ernie Hall. The members will vote round after round until a candidate gets six votes, he said. The person chosen will serve about three months until someone is elected to the seat in the April 2 city election.

Whoever is appointed could tilt the 11-member Assembly one way or the other in its alignment with Mayor Dan Sullivan. Right now, Drummond is among four to five Assembly members who are frequently at odds with the mayor.

And the appointment could give a candidate a boost for election to the seat in April. The April winner serves one year, filling out the remainder of Drummond's term.

With Drummond's departure, six Assembly seats will be on the April ballot. Besides Drummond, Assembly members whose terms expire in 2013 are Debbie Ossiander, Ernie Hall, Dick Traini, Paul Honeman and Jennifer Johnston.

Drummond's district covers Spenard, Turnagain and Sand Lake.

Applicants have until 3 p.m. Monday to turn paperwork in.

Candidates listed Friday on the city web site, muni.org/assembly, include:

• Cheryl Frasca, who was city budget director from 2000 to 2002 and 2009 to 2012 (under Sullivan), and on the governor's staff from 2002 to 2006 as budget director, deputy chief of staff and co-chair of the Denali Commission.

• Tim Steele, a School Board member from 2001 to 2010, and board president from 2004 to 2005. Steele is retired as a lieutenant commander in the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

• David Nees, an airport ramp supervisor and retired math teacher. Nees has run for the School Board, and said he intends to run again for the board in the upcoming election. He is circulating petitions for initiatives on the city ballot that have to do with changing School Board and Assembly districts, and returning the city election dates to October instead of April.

• Gordon Glaser, vice chairman of the North Star Community Council. Glaser is retired from the state Division of Public Health, where he was a specialist on injury prevention programs for children. He is a board member for the Alaska Injury Prevention Center. At one time, he was president of the Anchorage Chapter of the Alaska State Employees Association.

Hall said the process of choosing a temporary Assembly member depends on how many candidates there are. But in any case, the 10 members remaining after Drummond leaves will keep voting round after round until a candidate gets six votes, a majority.

If there are just a few applicants, Assembly members may vote for whomever they choose in the first round, and the leaders of that round would continue to the next round until someone is chosen, Hall said.

If a dozen or more people apply, "I may look for Assembly members to nominate individuals," he said.

One thing the Assembly has made clear: The new Assembly member will be chosen based on their written applications only. No interviews. No public hearings.

Frasca said she plans to run for the seat in April. At first, she was only going for the appointment, she said, but then friends and supporters encouraged her to run. She said she has a broad perspective from working with groups and people around the city, and thinks she'd be effective on the Assembly.

Steele said he might run for the seat, but hasn't committed to it yet.

Glaser and Nees said they're not running for Assembly, though Nees will run for School Board.

"I think they should have a placeholder there rather than somebody in there who is using it as a platform for another office," Glaser said.

Drummond, at her final Assembly meeting this month, suggested to her colleagues that they appoint someone who did not plan to run for the seat in the April election.

She believes someone who isn't going to run for the office might be more attentive to West Anchorage residents.

Two other Assembly members contacted, Paul Honeman and Debbie Ossiander, said that wouldn't be a definitive issue for them.

Reach Rosemary Shinohara at rshinohara@adn.com or 257-4340.

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