Anchorage Assembly candidate Q&As: What is the most important problem facing Anchorage? How would you address it?

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

District 2 - Seat A - Eagle River/Chugiak

Kevin Cross

The lack of trust and disenfranchisement with our local government. Our current Assembly has behaved in a way that has created great distrust in our system. Actions speak louder than words and the public has been growing more frustrated at what they feel is blatant disregard. We do not treat each other with the respect we want in return. We have allowed special interest and personal agendas to creep into policy, create a lack of civility, and leave the citizens with fewer rights and a large bill. I intend to be an assemblyman for the working class. Everyone deserves to be appreciated and listened to, even if it’s inconvenient or you disagree. Curiosity is the foundation of learning.

Vanessa Stephens

Transparency in government. Finding out where and why the money the municipality receives seems to be funneled into black holes. Municipality voters are not stupid and want to know what’s being done with THEIR money. The Assembly works for the people, not vice-versa. Start following the money.

Gretchen Wehmhoff


We are recovering from the challenges of the pandemic, which came close behind a serious earthquake. Residents are trying to get back to normal in a climate of anger, mistrust and impatience. We need to encourage and facilitate conversations with people who are looking at things from different perspectives. We can’t get to solutions without getting together to solve them.

District 3 - Seat D - West Anchorage

Kameron Perez-Verdia

Public safety is the No. 1 concern in our city. During my time on the Assembly I have fought to fully fund the Anchorage Police Department and hire additional police officers and firefighters. I believe we are on the right track to addressing crime in Anchorage, but as important as increasing the numbers of police and firefighters are, it won’t alone solve our public safety problems. Crime is interrelated with homelessness, mental health, prison reentry, poverty, and addiction, among other issues. And we cannot address one without addressing the whole — we need a comprehensive strategy that tackles multiple social and systematic issues. That is why I have strongly advocated for the new mobile crisis team. By having mental health first responders handle moments of crisis, we can keep folks out of the criminal justice system and free up our police and firefighters to tackle the issues they are uniquely trained to address.

Liz Vazquez

With the rate of inflation and present poor economy, ensuring that the people of Anchorage receive the best value for monies they provide to the city. In addition, rebuilding the Port of Alaska so that the city and state does not suffer an economic disaster. This will require the following: Aggressively obtaining state and federal assistance to address the Port of Alaska; holding the line on taxes and not imposing new taxes will be critical to improve the economy of the city. Public safety is very important and is critical to the well being of the community.

Nial Sherwood Williams

Governmental corruption is the true pandemic. No line-item of the budget, no department of government is too important or too elite to not require an annual housecleaning. Government in this city is too big. Having over 55 municipal departments is too many. Many of the departments are duplicative and repeat tasks of a different department. None of the tasks being done well as government always fails to do things efficiently as could be done by private enterprise. This leads to the next point of quid-pro-quo corruption and kickbacks which have plagued Anchorage for over 70 years. And open, honest bidding process must be done without preferential treatment given to political donors groups or corporations.

District 4 - Seat F - Midtown

Kathy Henslee

Public safety. We all should be safe in our public parks, trails, downtown and even the library. Increase police presence in our community and work with prosecutors to keep violent criminals behind bars. Enforce the laws we thought were important enough to pass.

Meg Zaletel

The most important issue facing Anchorage is the economic recovery from COVID-19. How Anchorage invests and plans in the following months and years will set it on a trajectory for the future. That means continued wise investment that looks both at immediate needs and long-term investments and strikes the right balance between the two. The pandemic happened when Anchorage was facing an economic recession driven by low oil prices and years of dramatically reduced state support. We could not eliminate all the economic pain felt by many families across our city, but we looked earnestly for ways to have the most meaningful impact. As Anchorage moves forward, our immediate response must also include future planning. We need an economically sound approach to move Anchorage past the “boom and bust” mentality to a period of stability and growth.

District 5 - Seat H - East Anchorage

Forrest Dunbar

Public safety and homelessness remain our most pressing challenges. Because homelessness is addressed in another question, I’ll use this chance to highlight our public safety issues in Anchorage, from violent crimes to the quality of life issues presented by thefts and vehicle break-ins. That is why over the last six years I have supported adding 100 more officers to APD, which has led to a three-year decline in crime. But we are not yet where we need to be. Last year, I helped create the mental health first responders, a program that has worked in other cities to both improve outcomes for residents and free up police officers to focus on more serious crimes. I will continue to support our fire department as well, who respond not only to fires but to our medical emergencies, particularly in East Anchorage’s large senior community. When an Anchorage resident dials 911, I want them to know that help is on the way. That means fully funding our public safety agencies.

Christopher Hall


Crime and homelessness. If I can get both the Native corporations and the churches discuss this with me. We can fix this, however, they seem to be hiding behind “not my problem.”

Stephanie Taylor

The most important and urgent problem facing Anchorage is the homelessness crisis. We can no longer afford to turn a blind eye toward the suffering of our homeless neighbors. It speaks volumes about our community when there is so much visible suffering around us. Anchorage has several nonprofit organizations that have successfully addressed this issue and helped individuals experiencing homelessness transition from the street into productive lives. The problem has grown so big that these organizations cannot address this problem on such a large scale, but if we partner with these agencies and pattern our solutions after their model, we can make a real difference.

District 6 - Seat J - South Anchorage

Darin Colbry

Public safety, homelessness. I would sit down with everyone and we would come up with a better solution for homelessness.

Randy Sulte

Addressing homelessness will solve several challenges. A multifaceted issue requires a multifaceted approach from housing, counseling, skill development, medical treatment and more. A blend of a public and private partnership is needed that adopts ideas and programs with proven track records from successful cities. I agree with the mayor’s plan for a navigation center to triage and sort the needs of homeless, navigating them to resources that best match their needs. We will create focused solutions to reduce the influx of homeless and stop the ever-increasing numbers, treat those that require minimal resources, tackle the tougher, more difficult cases that are resource intensive, and lastly protect ourselves and those who view this as a way of life. I would return the Sullivan, among the longest-running COVID-19 shelters in the U.S., to the people. Finally, I would seek to reduce panhandling and illegal camping preventing the homeless from using established resources.


John Weddleton

Dock failure at the Port of Alaska looms as the biggest threat. I have supported the years of lawsuits that led to the successful case against MARAD to repair the work they mismanaged. I stay in touch with the Port users to make sure we are moving in a way that works for them. There was not a common path a few years ago. We are moving together now. We are near completion of the petroleum/cement terminal. The Assembly and the mayor are united in efforts to find funding to fix the Port.

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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?