The Arctic Sounder

Candidates for Northwest Arctic Borough and Kotzebue city races talk about road maintenance, Red Dog Mine and recreation

Northwest Arctic Borough elections

Derek Haviland Lie is running against Craig McConnell for borough assembly Seat H.

Haviland Lie was born and raised in the community and lives there with his wife. Together, they have three children and Haviland Lie also has three children from a previous marriage. Haviland Lie is currently vice mayor of Kotzebue and a Kikiktagruk Inupiat Corporation board member, and serves on the Northwest Arctic Borough Planning Commission.

“The borough assembly is something that’s always been kind of on my radar,” Haviland Lie said. “I’m a very community-oriented person and I like to be anywhere that I can give a helping hand.”

One of the biggest issues the borough is facing, Haviland Lie said, is what is going to happen if the Red Dog Mine reaches its end of life. The current mine life, based on existing developed deposits, is expected to extend through to 2031, according to Teck.

“The borough does get a good chunk of its annual funding from Teck Alaska,” Haviland Lie said. “If and when the mine is closed, what is the borough going to do to prepare for that possibility?”

Another priority for Haviland Lie, if he is elected to the borough assembly, is to make sure that Kotzebue is included in the programs that the borough coordinates.

“We are just as important as everybody else ... in the Northwest Arctic Borough,” he said.


McConnell is a lifelong resident of the borough and a son to Louis and June Nelson. He has worked for the Northwest Arctic Borough School District for 35 years as a teacher, student activities coordinator and property services director until retiring in 2022.

In his career, McConnell was passionate about helping residents save on the cost of utilities.

During his time as property services director, he said he helped the district lower fuel costs. To reduce water/sewer costs for residents, he helped spearhead the Community Utility Assistance Program that subsidizes water/sewer costs for all borough residents. For 10 years, McConnell served on the Kotzebue Electric Association board, supporting wind and solar projects to reduce electricity costs for Kotzebue residents.

“Now that I’m retired I want to use the knowledge and experience I gained from 24 years of driving fuel, electricity and freight costs down at the school district to help borough residents lower their costs.”

In other issues, McConnell said the borough needs to recruit another air carrier to the region to create competition and reduce travel costs for residents. He also said he is concerned about the lack of VPSOs in the villages.

“The program needs to be restructured and funded properly so every village has a VPSO,” he said. “Public safety is not a privilege, it is a human right, which our village residents currently don’t enjoy. My purpose in running for the Assembly is to help drive the cost of living down for our residents and to establish public safety in our villages.”

In other assembly races, Raven Sheldon is running for Seat E and Hannah Paniyavluk Loon for Seat G unopposed. The two candidates did not respond to questions about why they are running and what they hope to achieve in office.

Northwest Arctic Borough School District

Four seats in District 4 are opening up in the Northwest Arctic Borough School District.

Alice Melton-Barr is running for Seat H this year. She couldn’t respond to questions about her candidacy this year but said that the reasons she is running for the school board are the same as last year.

Originally from Buckland, Melton-Barr has served on the Board of Education from 2017 to 2021, representing Buckland, Deering and Selawik. She said she wants to continue working for the children of Northwest Alaska, advocate for more homegrown teachers, and support Inupiaq language revitalization in the classroom.

Besides her involvement in the school board, Melton-Barr also has served on the Native Village of Buckland IRA Council and Nana Regional Corporation Board of Directors.

Margaret Hansen is running for Seat J. Hansen, who grew up in Kotzebue, is married to Paul Hansen and has three sons and three grandchildren. Before retiring, she worked for the State of Alaska as a Local Government Specialist.

Hansen said she is running for the school board because she believes that education is one of the greatest gifts to children that can help them succeed and cope with challenges.

“A good education is key to a child’s success as they become adults. So, after 20 years of advocating for our children’s education, I am still on fire to help as many children as possible to succeed.”

Besides prioritizing academic activities, Hansen said she wants local schools to offer cultural activities, sports, academic competitions, art and music.

To improve schools in the Northwest Arctic, Hansen wants to advocate for more funding and work with the district on a plan to grow local teachers.

“We must plan to not only attract them but to retain teachers as well,” she said, “by giving them the tools, classroom environment and compensation. ... Taking care of the people in our education system who take care of our children is of utmost importance.”


Marie N. Green is running for Seat G and Carol “Bunny” Schaeffer is the candidate for Seat K. Neither of them responded to questions about their candidacy before the deadline.

Kotzebue city election

Seat A

In the Kotzebue City Council races, Ernest Norton is running for Seat A against write-in candidate Lori Jorgensen.

Jorgensen grew up between Kotzebue and Kiana and now works at Alaska Technical Center as a register slash recruiter. She said she decided to run for the city council because she believes in change and wants to see success in the organization.

“I would like to see growth in the community, for example, creating a recreational center, more opportunities for the city to make money to be able to maintain the city’s obligations to the community,” she said. “I’m hoping to see the Cape Blossom project Stage 2 completed and thinking about stage three.”

Maintaining the city roads year around, conducting dust abatement and maintaining the water and sewer system would be her other priorities if she is elected.

“I know there’s not much we can do about social media hatred” toward the city, she added, “but I would like to work on that.”

Jorgensen’s opponent, Norton, hadn’t responded to emails and calls before Monday.


Seat B

Incumbent Derek Haviland Lie is running for Seat B to continue work on city issues.

“Right now, our biggest projects city-wise are getting the Cape Blossom Road completed and getting phase three, which would be the actual facility itself,” said Haviland Lie, who is also running for the borough assembly.

Seat C

For Seat C, Joshua Hadley is running against Wayne Hogue.

Hadley was born in Anchorage and moved to Kotzebue as a child. He worked in drilling for a decade and now works in delivery for UPS and FBX in Kotzebue. He said he was inspired to run for the city office by his adoptive parents, both of whom were involved in local government. One of the issues he hopes to address if elected is improving the quality of road maintenance.

“Anyone who lives in Kotzebue can tell you that the state of the roads is ridiculous, it’s awful,” Hadley said. “I drive around town every weekday and I don’t go the speed limit — I have to go under.”

Creating more recreational activities would be another priority for Hadley — for example, organizing events on Labor Day and other holidays or even hosting a chess tournament.

Hogue said he is running for the city council because Kotzebue is home for him.

“I believe in its potential,” he said. “Our community deserves top-notch education, thriving businesses, and clean water. I’m committed to improving our water quality and ensuring every voice is heard. Together, we can build a brighter future for Kotzebue.”

Alena Naiden

Alena Naiden writes about communities in the North Slope and Northwest Arctic regions for the Arctic Sounder and ADN. Previously, she worked at the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner.