With most ballots cast in Tuesday's Northwest Arctic Borough election counted, former state representative Reggie Joule is leading Patrick Savok – his nephew -- by more than 100 votes in bid to become the region's next mayor.
Joule, a 16-year state representative who announced this summer that he would not return to Juneau, said in a prior interview he believes his connections and skills from his time in the Alaska Legislature as a benefit to those in the region. "I feel the time is right to come back home and put the things I have learned to work here in this borough," he said.
Joule was known as a bridge-builder in the Legislature, and worked at smoothing relations between rural and urban legislators. He's also known for dominating the blanket toss from 1970 to 1985 in the World Eskimo-Indian Olympics. He even demonstrated it on the "Tonight Show with Johnny Carson."
Joule told the Arctic Sounder last week that he hopes to continue working on Arctic policy, in part through his recent nomination to the Arctic Policy Commission. In addition, he said, his main priority was finding some relief for residents facing another winter of extraordinarily high heating costs.
Savok is a relative newcomer to public office who has been a member of the borough assembly since 2010. He said he offered a fresh perspective and wasn't looking for a "retirement position."
Savok did well in the region's villages, where he consistently picked up more votes than Joule. But he never was able to overcome Joule's 204-vote lead in Kotzebue.
The two candidates are related -- Joule is Savok's uncle.
In other races, preliminary results indicate incumbent Henry Ballot, Sr., leading the race over Enoch Mitchell for Assembly Seat A. For Assembly Seat B, the vote was split three ways as of press time, with Austin Swan, Sr., slightly ahead of Vern J. Cleveland and Walter W. Downey trailing in votes. Incumbent Frank "Obbie" Greene was ahead of challenger Johnson Green for Assembly Seat J, while Nasruuk Carl Weisner appeared to be edging out incumbent Dean Nuna Westlake for Seat K, with Clement B. Richards, Sr., in third spot. Paula Mills and Bobby Wells were both taking slots on the Northwest Arctic Borough School Board, unchallenged, while Helena R. Jones was ahead of Lawrence K. Jones, Sr. It was a tight race for Seat F on the board, with Eunice Hadley slightly ahead of Tina Swan in preliminary results.
Full results will be available after absentee and question ballots are counted.
The preceding article first appeared in The Arctic Sounder and is republished here with permission.