Rural Alaska

An incumbent and a first-timer win runoff races for North Slope Borough Assembly

Lars Nelson and Trina Paul won two Utqiagvik seats in Tuesday’s runoff elections for the North Slope Borough Assembly.

Nelson and Paul received 66% and 68% of the votes, respectively, and while 80 ballots remain outstanding, “the difference is too large” for the election results to change, according to borough clerk Sheila Burke.

“There are not enough question and absentee ballots to change the candidates who are running ahead,” Burke said.

After all votes are counted and verified, the official election results will be presented during the Nov. 9 assembly meeting at 1:30 p.m., Burke said.

Seat A-3A: Lars Nelson beats Forrest Deano Olemaun

Nelson, with 501 votes, defeated former assembly president Forrest Deano Olemaun, who had 251 votes. In the Oct. 5 election, Nelson led with 363 votes against Olemaun’s 303.

“I am very humbled to have received the majority vote of the people on Nov. 2,” said Nelson, who has previously run for the assembly but has never won before. “I plan to work hard bringing a new perspective on the issues our region has been facing, focusing on solutions that emphasize local capacity building and local economics.”

Nelson is a founder of the consulting company TRIBN LLC, which assists Alaska Native corporations. In the past, he also served as the deputy director of housing for the borough, president of UIC Lands and the Barrow office manager.

Olemaun, the president of the Utqiaġvik Tribal Council, ran for the seat to expand affordable child care, support school district budgets and “strengthen healthy activities in the community,” according to his campaign.

Olemaun thanked “voters for showing up to the polls to exercise the most important duty” and said he is fortunate to participate in an election process that allows people to choose what is important to them.

“I am happy for Lars so long as he is aboveboard in every decision he acts on,” Olemaun added.

Seat A-3D: Trina Paul defeats Corrine Adams Danner

Incumbent Paul earned 513 votes to beat first-time candidate Corrine Adams Danner, who earned 239 votes. Before Nov. 1, Paul was leading with 289 votes against Danner’s 264.

Appointed to the assembly in February, Paul has served in the role for most of the year. She plans to continue working on housing shortages, homelessness and mental health awareness through balanced budgets and collaboration, according to her campaign video.

Paul said she has always had a passion for serving people and supporting the local community.

“I believe our people are resilient; we just need to embrace them,” she said in the video. “The time is now to make strong decisions for our borough to make sure that we don’t run out of the resources we have.”

A community engagement specialist for the Arctic Slope Native Association, Paul also leads a subsistence lifestyle with her husband and son.

“We live to sustain our way of life and continue teaching our son and the next generation,” she said in the video.

Danner is an Utqiagvik Tribal Council member and a teacher at Hopson Middle School who campaigned on bringing more affordable housing, substance abuse services and mental health resources, especially for the young generation, to the community.

“I wanted to see more healthy communities here in Barrow and across the North Slope and to serve them more closely,” Danner said. “We need more wellness in our communities, and we are facing housing shortages all across the North Slope.”

Although voter turnout was lower than she would’ve hoped, Danner said she is happy with the results. She congratulated Paul on her win, saying that Paul is “a young, strong leader.” She also wished Nelson luck in the new role.

“I show my respect for everyone who wants to represent our community and I believe they will do their best,” she said.

Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly reported that Lars Nelson was the president of Ukpeagvik Inupiat Corp. He was the president of UIC Lands.