Four seasoned local politicians, including a current Alaska State Representative, are competing for the North Slope Borough mayor position this year.
Born and raised in Utqiaġvik, Doreen Ahgeak Lampe has served as a North Slope Borough Assembly member for four consecutive terms. The experience, she said, gave her an insight into some of the most pressing issues for the region— such as creating more housing for the future growth in eight borough communities.
Extreme housing shortages around the North Slope are causing residents to leave the region, Lampe said. With villages having limited space to build new housing, she said the borough should double down on its efforts to renovate and expand old units.
“We need to work with the local comprehensive planning and tri-lateral groups to address the housing remedies throughout all our communities,” she said.
Improving road access and upgrading trails, crucial to accessing existing infrastructure, would be another focus for Lampe if she gets elected as mayor. Lampe said she believes the efforts would also help lower the high cost of freight services, which are now limited and expensive.
North Slope communities, Lampe said, should benefit from their access to the Chukchi Sea and the Arctic Ocean and coordinate with the shipping vessels passing through the region.
“If we don’t do the outreach efforts now, we’ll hardly see any benefits coming to our region,” she said. “You’ll just see them up there passing us by.”
Lampe added that the “North Slope infrastructure is in major need of maintenance to continue to be operational.”
While Lampe said she is looking forward to the opportunities the WIllow project will bring to future generations, she said resource development companies and local leaders need to always consider how to protect fish, caribou and waterfowl.
“We will remain diligent and protect those renewable resources while developing our non-renewable resources,” she said. “With my leadership and experience in advocating for all these issues time and time again, I just love serving all our people. It’s something I will always cherish.”
Independent Rep. Josiah Aullaqsruaq Patkotak said he decided to run for the mayor position because of the crucial role the North Slope Borough plays statewide, nationally and in the lives of its residents.
“I know that our borough is gonna need strong leadership for the next three years at least, and then maybe six,” he said.
A son of Crawford and Laura Patkotak, Josiah Patkotak and his wife Flora Atqaqsaaq Patkotak are raising their four children.
Patkotak has served the Arctic communities through his work in multiple government organizations. He was an Inupiat Community of the Arctic Slope council member and a Ukpeagvik Inupiat Corporation board of director; a Barrow Utilities & Electric Cooperative, Inc., board member and a North Slope Borough Assembly member. In 2020, he was elected to the Alaska Legislature representing District 40, which covers the North Slope and Northwest Arctic Borough.
If Patkotak wins the borough mayor race, he will relinquish his seat in the Alaska Legislature, and the governor will appoint his replacement.
The issues Patkotak highlighted in his campaign include expanding job opportunities for residents, ensuring the financial security of the borough to provide better services, replacing and repairing aging infrastructure in the villages and modernizing energy infrastructure.
Nurturing the housing environment and making it easy for people to build on the North Slope is also high on his list of his priorities. Patkotak said the borough is uniquely primed to help bridge the gap between construction and making construction materials more accessible.
“One of the biggest hurdles is the financeability — the cost that it takes to build a house in the North Slope versus anywhere that’s connected to the road is astronomical,” Patkotak said.
To address the issue, he said he wants to cultivate access to materials and work with barge and ice trail operators.
To improve mental health services, Patkotak said he wants to assemble a team of professionals locally. And to support subsistence needs, he said he wants the borough and local hunters to assert more authority over other game management aspects.
The next borough administration, Patkotak said, will need to work with federal and state partners on such infrastructure projects as the Utqiaġvik sea wall and transportation projects such as ports in the Arctic.
After the Port of Nome and Cape Blossom, whatever the next investment moving further into the North Slope region is, he said the borough needs to make sure it’s done right.
“We don’t have the local input on this process like we do in the oilfield but It can be just as dramatic of a negative impact if It’s not done with that same amount of same amount of skin in the game,” he said.
John Hopson Jr.
John Hopson Jr. was away hunting last week and hasn’t responded to requests for comments about his candidacy.
Hopson served multiple years as the Wainwright City Mayor and Council Member and is the North Slope Borough Assembly member representing the villages of Wainwright and Atqasuk and the assembly vice president.
In 2020, Hopson ran for the borough mayor seat and placed second. In his campaign, he was focusing on addressing housing shortages, creating internet subsidies for residents and supporting equality between North Slope communities.
To create a local workforce and decrease the number of people leaving the region, he said he wanted to invest in youth, create more job and training opportunities and restart the workforce program
Co-management of wildlife resources was another focus Hopson highlighted in his previous campaign.
As a person who went through treatment and recovered from his alcohol addiction, Hopson spoke about the need for a local recovery and substance addiction treatment center to have healthier communities
Another borough mayor candidate Anthony Edwardsen was away hunting and fishing and couldn’t be reached before Tuesday.