Anchorage Assembly candidate Q&As: The past 2 years have been marked by increased civic discord in Anchorage. How would you improve the quality of civic discourse in the city?

In advance of the April 5 Anchorage municipal election, the Anchorage Daily News asked candidates running for Assembly and Anchorage School Board a series of issue questions. Read all the Assembly and school board candidates’ responses here.

Q: The past two years have been marked by increased civic discord in Anchorage. How would you improve the quality of civic discourse in the city?

District 2 - Seat A - Eagle River/Chugiak

Kevin Cross

It is the job of an Assemblyman to listen to our citizens. We are the extension of government closest to the people. Open dialog and compassion has not been a message the current Assembly has done a good job of communicating. Many would say they have thrown gas on the fire (AO 2021-117). I intend to listen, be grateful, seek first to understand, and I will always support the will of my District, our Community Councils, our residences, and businesses. I will be a messenger for the people of Chugiak-Eagle River, Eklutna, and JBER and not a political activist out to push an extreme agenda.

Vanessa Stephens

COVID put people out of jobs, caused businesses to fail, and forced costs for goods and services to rise. Our police force is also severely undermanned. If we take care of APD and we begin a full recovery from COVID I feel things will settle down a lot and crime will go down as our economy recovers.

Gretchen Wehmhoff


We have to engage in conversations with people whose views differ from ours. It will take all members of our Assembly and administration to embrace open conversations. The tough part of this will be building trust. I know I’m ready to have those conversations.

District 3 - Seat D - West Anchorage

Kameron Perez-Verdia

We need to have more open dialogues as a community and listen to one another about what we believe and how those beliefs overlap. I’ve worked hard to listen to my constituents and consider every viewpoint in making important decisions during my time on the Assembly. I’m also the President and CEO of the Alaska Humanities Forum, where we work to host those very dialogues and explore the reasons for our current polarity. Campaigns are a unique opportunity to get out and talk with residents before they make a decision for the future. I’ve enjoyed knocking doors over the past several months and talking with folks of all different backgrounds and beliefs about what they hope to see the city moving forward. Given the current media environment, I think folks would be surprised by how much we really have in common. At the end of the day, local government should be a mundane way of bringing community members together, and I think when we give each other a chance we can do so civilly and productively.

Liz Vazquez

The Assembly needs to be civil to each other and the public. In addition, the Assembly needs to be transparent, accountable and listen to the community.

Nial Sherwood Williams

By staunchly defending freedom of speech and other constitutional rights of citizens. Politics and government need to have debate which is robust wide open. Limiting debate is that which is done in communist countries and under tyrannical despotic leaders such as King George, who we American citizens back in 1776 claimed freedom and independence from. Under New York Times versus Sullivan 1964 Supreme Court case law that states that we are allowed to call out elected officials by name not just for their policies but also for their personality. The citizens of Anchorage have been fooled, the freedom of speech still does exist in Anchorage.

District 4 - Seat F - Midtown

Kathy Henslee

Treating people with respect and listening to the public, who the Assembly should be representing, would go a long way.

Meg Zaletel

It’s important to remember that a small group of people drives this discord. And unfortunately, as with everything in life, the only behavior we can control is our own. Our challenge is to continue to model good government, patience and kindness, and to continue to get the work done.

District 5 - Seat H - East Anchorage

Forrest Dunbar

We need everyone in Anchorage to stand up to anger, hatred, and misinformation, and not allow our community to be dominated just by those who yell the loudest in person or on social media. Most Alaskans and Anchorage residents are independents and undeclared, and are not interested in endless partisan battles. At our meetings, we need a return to basic decorum and respectful discourse. And when we are crafting our policies we must always base our decisions on facts and truth, not conspiracy theories or things pulled out of context and twisted for political gain.

Christopher Hall


That is not a city council problem. The people are allowed to protest any way they seem fit as long as they don’t create a victim.

Stephanie Taylor

The civic discord has primarily been a direct result of stringent COVID-19 policies enacted by the former administrations and Assembly. This level of unrest could have been avoided if the local leadership had placed their confidence in the people of Anchorage to make medical decisions for themselves instead of adopting a “one-size-fits-all” policy. I would work to improve the quality of civic discourse by respecting and listening to constituents and erring on the side of liberty and personal autonomy. Alaskans are an independent people and should be respected for the choices they make for themselves, their businesses, and their families.

District 6 - Seat J - South Anchorage

Darin Colbry

I would make sure that we try to come together and with the truth have an open dialogue on issues that are affecting our city.

Randy Sulte

Leadership starts at the top with leading by example. I would start the healing process by removing five Assembly members from office this April and put all members on notice that they are elected community leaders and are here to represent the population at large and not their own private interests. As stewards of Anchorage, those elected are accountable for the health and well being of our city and their actions are of tremendous importance. Lead by example, hold each other accountable, and maintain the highest standard.


John Weddleton

Civic discord is a predictable outcome of a pandemic. As the pandemic wanes and the stresses it caused dissipate, we’ll see more calm and effective communication. At the top of my notes for every meeting, I write “listen generously.” I try to hear the message behind the anger and I am respectful to all who participate. Over the past couple years, I have worked with people who came out swinging. Instead of pushing them away, I pulled them closer. As they learn more about how the city works and how they can be effective in making change, the anger has decreased, they are a pleasure to work with and are effective. Anchorage is better for their participation.

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Read more Q&As with Anchorage Assembly candidates:

What is a short summary of your background?

Why are you running?

What makes you qualified to serve on the Anchorage Assembly?

What is the most important problem facing Anchorage? How would you address it?

What is the most important problem facing your district? How would you address it?

What is your vision of the role of local government in Anchorage?

Rate Dave Bronson’s performance as mayor. Explain, with specific examples.

Rate the performance of the current Assembly. Explain, with specific examples.

The past two years have been marked by increased civic discord in Anchorage. How would you improve the quality of civic discourse in the city?


What’s your vision for improving and diversifying Anchorage’s economy?

What do you see as the most effective strategies to address homelessness in Anchorage going forward?

What’s your assessment of Anchorage’s transportation infrastructure? How would you improve it?

Does the city do a good job of running municipal elections? Would you push for changes? Explain.

Do you acknowledge the results of the 2020 presidential election? Also, what are your thoughts on what took place on Jan. 6, 2021 in the U.S. Capitol?

What’s one thing that makes you hopeful about Anchorage’s future?

What other important issue would you like to discuss?