Sheila Selkregg likes to tell voters she's been training to be their mayor for her whole life.
Selkregg, 59, is the daughter of a member of the first municipal Assembly elected after unification of the old city and borough governments in 1975. She holds graduate degrees in urban studies and planning, worked as the city's planning director for former Mayor Rick Mystrom, and later served as Alaska director for rural development in the federal Department of Agriculture. She's now on the faculty at the University of Alaska Anchorage and owns a planning and community development firm.
She came to Anchorage in 1958 with her parents and siblings -- "a family where ecology was not an issue, it was the way we lived," she told a forum of Alaska Conservation Voters, recalling saving foil for recycling as a fourth-grader.
Elected to the Assembly in 2007, Selkregg became vice-chair in April and served in that position until stepping down in mid-December to campaign for mayor.
Selkregg was part of a more liberal six-vote majority that took control of the Assembly after the 2008 election but has pushed for more up-to-date and regular reports on city investments and finances, especially since a $17 million deficit was reported in this year's budget only weeks after the Assembly approved it.
Q. The biggest problem facing Anchorage is ...
A. We must, immediately, address our budget and allocate resources around core, essential services that matter most to us. That doesn't mean we eliminate things that are essential to building a strong future. My priorities are: good paying jobs; healthy, successful children; and a safe, vibrant community. In the long-term, it's building a city that's sustainable. Anchorage is a young city, in a prime position to emerge as a distinguished northern city.
Q. Give one example of the kind of development you think Anchorage needs more of, and one Anchorage needs less of.
A. Spenard is an exciting hub for locally owned small business. It has character and economic vitality. It's an example of the creative and entrepreneurial strength of our local business community. There is some terrible, high-density development in this community that was done quickly and cheaply, without consideration for the people who were going to have to live there. These developments don't have a sense of neighborhood and they diminish the quality of life.
Q. What, if anything, should the city do about the prospect of more bear attacks in city parks this summer?
A. The city and state need to coordinate. We need a clear management plan that considers the Anchorage Bowl's carrying capacity for wildlife, appropriate land-use strategies to reduce human/wildlife conflicts, sensible stream enhancement and stocking programs that consider that fish bring bears. We need a safety management plan for protecting humans in areas of critical conflict. We need sensible park management that ensures we are aware of critical areas where development or increased human use can lead to conflict.
Q. Do you support lowering property taxes by starting a sales tax?
A. I support a sales tax if and only if it results in a dollar-for-dollar reduction in property taxes and is supported by a majority of Anchorage residents. It's clear to me we need another revenue source to alleviate the burden on property owners. There are a variety of options, and I'm ready to start the conversation.
Q. Should the city support construction of a Knik Arm bridge? Why or why not?
A. No. It's an extremely expensive project, it will reduce Anchorage's tax base and erode the value of our industrial land. The money for the bridge could be better spent on clearly identified, pressing transportation needs, including resurfacing and reconstructing rutted roads that need attention. Also, the costs of maintaining this project and connecting it to the rest of the city have not been budgeted for.
Q. Are you for or against doing away with the I/M program for vehicles?
A. I support clean air and the I/M is a tool that works. I would do away with the I/M if Anchorage had a better strategy to reduce the six tons per day of CO emissions. Currently, Anchorage has some of the highest levels of CO emissions in the nation. High CO levels are correlated with high levels of benzene and other carcinogenic chemicals that have a negative impact on human health.
Q. Would you take a voluntary pay cut before you ask any employee to take one?
A. Yes. Absolutely.
Q. Not counting Anchorage, name your three favorite cities. Why do you like them?
A. Vancouver B.C.: It is an economically vibrant community with a diverse population that has attracted investment from around the world. Rome: Planned thousands of years ago, this city still functions as a fabulous place to live. Its architecture creates a backbone for a timeless, vibrant city. Seattle: A diverse vibrant economy that continually attracts young, talented professionals. Good schools and good neighborhoods.
Party affiliation: Democrat
Date of birth: Oct. 25, 1949
Occupation: Assistant professor in the Public Administration Department, College of Business and Public Policy, University of Alaska Anchorage. Anchorage Assembly, East Anchorage.
Military service: (No answer)
Children: Julia, Anthony and Joseph O'Malley
Web site: selkregg4mayor.com
E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.orgSheila SelkreggInteractive graphic: Mayoral Q&A and video
By DON HUNTER