Mayoral Candidate John Handeland Mayoral Candidate Ken HughesMayoral Candidate Colleen DeightonCouncil Seat A Candidate Adam MartinsonUtility Board Seat B Candidate Derek McLartySchool Board Seat B Candidate Jill Peters

In their own words: Municipal candidates present their visions and motivations

In order to give Nome voters an understanding of the views of candidates running in the Oct. 6 municipal election, The Nome Nugget posed questions to candidates for Mayor, Nome Common Council, NJUS Board and School Board. The only contested race is the race for Mayor, to finish a one-year term until the next regular Mayoral race in 2021. The Mayor holds a two-year term. The late Richard Beneville began the term in 2019 but his death earlier this year led to the interim appointment of John Handeland. Three candidates are running for that position.
Also up for election are Nome Common Council Seat A, a three-year term, held by Adam Martinson, who is running for re-election unopposed as is Nome Common Council Seat B, also a three-year term, held by Doug Johnson.
On the Utility Board, two seats are up for election: Seat B, a two-year term, held by Derek McLarty and Seat E, a three-year term, held by Carl Emmons. Both are running for re-election uncontested.
On the School Board, Seat B, a three-year term, is a up for election. It was previously held by Brandy Arrington, who is not running again for office. The sole candidate is Jill Peters.
See the questions and answers of those candidates who chose to answer the Nugget’s questionnaires.


Mayoral Candidate:
 John Handeland

Nome Nugget: What is your motivation to (re-)run for Mayor of Nome and what are your qualifications?

John Handeland: Nome is my home.  In my half-century of living here, my energies have always been focused to look for ways to be helpful in keeping Nome a good place to live.  This is a time when everyone in the world is facing new challenges, and Nome is not exempt.  Because things are rapidly evolving, I thought it was time and am again willing to contribute in this role.  I want to help my community address and overcome matters which could improve the overall wellbeing of all of our residents.  In order to survive and thrive, we need to work more creatively in collaborating together, for a common goal: Making Nome the best it can be, now and into the future.

Nome Nugget: A significant function of the Mayor is to be the ceremonial head of the City. What are the top issues the Mayor should do his or her best to represent to state and federal governments?

John Handeland: The mayor is an advocate (or “cheerleader”) for the city, its people, its existence and future development.  I do not consider the mayor’s role of being a strong advocate both within and outside the community as a “ceremonial” duty, but a true responsibility.  In COVID times we have tried to maintain a community “bubble”, but we are not isolated from the rest of the state, nation or the world.  We must strive to be more cohesive locally and have a unified stance on state or federal issues.  Nome should be in the forefront in having local issues advanced to state and federal representatives and agencies, and the mayor can (should) be a conduit to ensure Nome’s needs and desires are known.

Nome Nugget: Beside the COVID-19 pandemic, what are the most pressing issues that need to be addressed in the City of Nome?

John Handeland: While COVID has interrupted our lives, it also has given a great opportunity to evaluate the great strengths as well as some areas for improvement within our city. Nome is not alone in having a very real issue with homelessness.  The solution is not simple and eludes much bigger communities as well.  I am not sure we can ever get to a place where it can be permanently resolved, but I am confident Nomeites working together can develop cooperative ways to help.  And maybe our efforts coming up with solutions in a smaller community can be a model that is expandable to other localities.
Long-term sustainability of our community must also be a priority, in our actions, in planning and in advocacy.  While serving as a regional hub is an important economic engine here, we need to consider ways to diversify and expand the range of overall contributors.
It is difficult to balance the needs and desires for city services with revenue sources available.  There is the desire and need for added expenditures to address various social issues.  This dictates the need to carefully review each area of city revenues.  We need to look for more options than simply increasing property taxes.  Raising the sales tax can have a negative affect, driving sales outside of Nome.  The City —as well as the majority of cities across Alaska are doing— has taken steps to capture revenue from the vast internet sales activities, to the chagrin of local residents.  However, increasing the tax base as opposed to raising the rate is a prudent way to go.  We need to look at and embrace economic development opportunities that might help to further diversify our economy.

Nome Nugget: What is your vision of a healthy, thriving City of Nome and how do you propose to achieve this if elected Mayor of Nome?

John Handeland: I would like to see the community not just work to improve our somewhat tarnished image, but in our actions actually ensure Nome is a safer place for all.  It’s difficult to “sell” our community to visitors, new residents or new business enterprises, if there is a dark cloud hanging over us.  Simply adding more police is not the answer, in my mind.
I would like to see us be more neighborly and work together as citizens to be more united in common goals that can improve our quality of life and enhance our relationships with our fellow earthlings.  There have been injustices which resulted in divides, but we all bleed red, and need to attempt to solve unresolved matters that get in the way of being unified.
I would hope to see things resolve relative to COVID, to allow us to work efforts to increase tourism and support existing and hopefully some new business opportunities in Nome.  We need to work to increase our tax base, not tax existing property owners and businesses out of existence.
To achieve these lofty goals, that are attainable, will require commitment, dedication and a willingness to work together for the common good.  Facebook might be a great communication source for some, but it does not replace the need for sitting down and sharing issues and coming up with solutions in a more traditional setting.
When folks hear the saying “There’s no place like Nome!”, I want it to have positive connotations, for all.

Mayoral Candidate:
Colleen Deighton

Nome Nugget: What is your motivation to run for Mayor of Nome and what are your qualifications?

Colleen Deighton: Before I moved to Nome, I taught high school in a local village. I used to say, “Nome is nice to visit, but I wouldn’t want to live there.” Then I moved here and realized there is so much more to Nome than just grocery shopping and airports. This community has taken me in, entertained me, given me purpose and loved me. And now Nome has a need, and I think I can fill that need by being mayor.The mayor is in charge of running the city council meetings, acting as a representative of our town and presiding over public functions. I have strong communication skills, a desire to learn and a need to help out. No one will be able to replace Richard and the charismatic way he ran public events, but I’ll do my best.

Nome Nugget: A significant function of the Mayor is to be the ceremonial head of the City. What are the top issues the Mayor should do his or her best to represent to state and federal governments?

Colleen Deighton: Nome is an amazing town. And while we are best known for Iditarod and gold dredging, there is so much more to us than that. When discussing the town with outsiders, I will focus on our unique, eclectic population and our varied needs.

Nome Nugget: Beside the COVID-19 pandemic, what are the most pressing issues that need to be addressed in the City of Nome?

Colleen Deighton: My knee jerk reaction to this question is: “A better baggage area out at Alaska Airlines!” However, I understand that the mayor has no control over that. I believe that homelessness on all fronts is our largest non-viral problem in Nome. Not just the population being served by the Day Shelter, but young adults who can’t move out of their parents’ house because there are no affordable apartments, families in too small houses because there’s nothing bigger for sale, and people who want to move here to work who can’t find housing.

Nome Nugget: What is your vision of a healthy, thriving City of Nome and how do you propose to achieve this if elected Mayor of Nome?

Colleen Deighton: I have seen this town band together to accomplish amazing things. From keeping the people of the NEST fed nightly to the support for families with sick kids. From cheering spectators during the graduation parade to crowds gathered to search for missing people. I think there’s a lot of people in this town that love it as much as I do, and want to be involved, but don’t participate in local government because they think their voice doesn’t matter. As mayor, I would like to be that bridge between city hall and the people of Nome. I understand that this means I may never again have a quick trip to the grocery store. I’m okay with that. People need to know their concerns are being heard, and I’m the person to do that.

Mayoral Candidate:
 Ken Hughes

Nome Nugget: What is your motivation to run for Mayor of Nome and what are your qualifications?

Ken Hughes: I would like to be Mayor of Nome because I believe that I am the best person to advocate on behalf of the entire Nome citizenry.  For too long it seems the City of Nome has been dominated by a narrow group of people that have not always been completely representative of the entire population.  This group seems to have the attitude that they know what’s best for the community and are laser-focused on expanding the government footprint to do just that regardless of community planning.  I favor a more inclusive approach.  As Robert Woodson says “Those suffering the problem must be involved in the creation and implementation of the solution.”
I spent several years being Mayor of Teller attending to the needs of the village, establishing management capacity, rewriting ordinances, developing strategic plans and coordinating joint meetings between the city, tribe and corporation.  Since I’ve moved to Nome in 2006 I have served as President of the Chamber of Commerce and six years on the Nome Planning Commission, the last three years as Chairperson.  This experience, as well as attending and speaking at many City Council meetings and work sessions and Port Commission meetings, has provided me an up-to-date view of the City’s affairs and filled in the difference in operations between the two cities.  
I am both a commercial and subsistence fisherman, subsistence hunter, miner and business manager traveling throughout the region and have spent time on a BLM advisory council as well as the Northern Norton Sound Fish and Game Advisory Council so I understand the myriad layers of management that overlay the regions resources.  

Nome Nugget: A significant function of the Mayor is to be the ceremonial head of the City. What are the top issues the Mayor should do his or her best to represent to state and federal governments?

Ken Hughes: As the Arctic becomes increasingly accessible by nations around the world, the development of the Port of Nome to be able to accommodate our expanding national and commercial interests with a minimum of disruption to our subsistence and cultural activities has to be well represented.  Continued land side development to accommodate an increased population will require engagement with state and federal governments to improve our roads and utilities.  Expanding support for public safety, private sector economic development, our schools, and development of a pre-school for all system will also require serious consultation.

Nome Nugget: Beside the COVID-19 pandemic, what are the most pressing issues that need to be addressed in the City of Nome?

Ken Hughes: The most pressing issues that need to be addressed in the City of Nome include affordable housing for lower and middle income households, the continued development of our public safety department into a more community-based organization that includes mentoring of local residents, improving the quality of our educational system by establishing Violence Free Zones in our schools and improving the after-school opportunities for our children.  None of this will be possible, however, without strong private sector economic development as we pivot out of the COVID-19 era.  

Nome Nugget: What is your vision of a healthy, thriving City of Nome and how do you propose to achieve this if elected Mayor of Nome?

Ken Hughes: My vision of Nome is that of a welcoming, culturally diverse community with opportunities for all residents and visitors that encourages arts and cultural activities as a catalyst for education, communication, economic development and social advancement.
I propose to achieve this by empowering the Nome Planning Commission to engage all of Nome in a community visioning process to complete the 2030 Nome Comprehensive Plan and then developing the programs necessary to enact it. I would love to see the City of Nome seal updated from the single standing miner with a shovel to one that reflects walking in both worlds with one spirit.

Nome Common Council Seat A
Incumbent Adam Martinson

Nome Nugget: What is your motivation to re-run for office on the Nome Common Council?

Adam Martinson: I decided to run for the City Council again because I am interested in continuing to work hard for the citizens of Nome and to keep Nome a great place to live. I initially ran three years ago to get involved, not knowing much about city government, and I have learned a lot along the way. Obviously, times have been tough for the City in recent years, but I want to continue to work with the council and our citizens to make things better here in Nome.

Nome Nugget: What do you identify as the most pressing issues for Nome – aside from public safety and the COVID-19 crisis— and how do you propose to address them?

Adam Martinson: The high cost of living in Nome and most of Alaska is definitely a pressing issue. Keeping the mil rate at its current level will help property owners, as the City Council did not approve a rate increase this fiscal year after approving one last fiscal year. Also, discontinuing the seasonal sales tax permanently is a priority for me. In my opinion, this tax increase burdened the community more that it helped.  

Nome Nugget: In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, how do you propose to chart the way forward to keep Nome residents and businesses afloat and how can the City prepare for future disruptions like pandemics?

Adam Martinson: I believe we are better prepared for a future pandemic or emergency knowing what we know now. No one was ready for COVID-19. We learned a lot as we moved forward and put systems in place to improve safety as well as financial assistance for those who experienced financial hardship. The “new normal” has been tough for everyone to get used to, wearing masks, social distancing and staying away from large groups has helped our city to stay safe. Strict travel restrictions were enacted when COVID-19 hit Alaska, which helped to slow the spread into our community. Moving forward, City of Nome Administration with the support of the City Council needs to become more involved in helping the Chamber along with businesses to look for grant opportunities and continue to help any way they can.  

Nome Nugget: In your opinion, how what is your vision of public safety in Nome and how do you propose to keep NPD on a track to ensure public safety for all of Nome, especially vulnerable populations?

Adam Martinson: The City of Nome’s current Public Safety Department is moving in a good direction with the hiring of Chief Heintzelman.  The Chief is doing his best and is working on hiring more seasoned officers and investigators. The recent addition of a Deputy Chief will allow for more oversight, training and workforce support. Adding more officers to allow for two per shift would also help being able to patrol more of Nome during peak hours.  

Nome Nugget: How do you propose to ignite public interest to become engaged in city government?

Adam Martinson: That is a tough question. It took me quite a number of years to get involved in city government. I was not encouraged by most folks I talked to at the time either, but I decided to give it a shot. At the time, Councilman Andersen was very vocal at wanting some new blood on the council and encouraged me to run for the City Council. That was definitely something that motivated me to run for my first term.
Today, I think it’s harder than ever to get people involved. For the last three years our City has had some sort of turmoil going on for one reason or another. The last six months have been a very trying time as well.  With that being said, city government is a tough place to be and a tough sell to citizens. I encourage folks to attend meetings, tune in on GCI and in the near future on a live stream.  That would get our citizens thinking about what goes on in the city council and maybe would motivate them to get involved.

Utility Board
Seat B
Incumbent Derek McLarty

Nome Nugget: You serve on the Utility board, what is your motivation to run again for office?

Derek McLarty: NJUS is a complex mechanism with many moving parts. In my first term I have learned a multitude of valuable things about the Utilities, and how they work. With a much better understanding of the parts and pieces, I now feel much more in the driver’s seat than just an observer. I am running again to use my knowledge of the Utilities to participate in the future direction and developments of NJUS.

Nome Nugget: What do you believe is the most important issue that NJUS faces and what solutions do you propose?

Derek McLarty: A very important aspect of NJUS is the ability to advance and maintain its current infrastructure. Being efficient and having a clear course of direction are major accomplishments to maintain. Constantly seeking ways to offer better services and keep the associated costs down, I believe is the biggest hurdle the Utilities has to overcome.   

Nome Nugget: What direction does NJUS need to take to assure reliable energy and water & sewer services at an affordable cost for Nome residents in the future?

Derek McLarty: John Handeland and Ken Morton do an outstanding job of looking to the future and anticipating trends and opportunities. An NJUS user may not know it, but if it weren’t for creative refinancing and keeping a watchful eye on fuel costs, rates would be much higher than current. The monies saved through this diligence go directly to needed infrastructure maintenance or advancements. Again, advancing the Utilities ability to serve, at no cost increase. This same diligence and commitment to serving the community, are what will keep costs as low as possible.   

Nome Nugget: How do you propose to interest more people to serve on City of Nome boards and commissions?

 Derek McLarty: Very simple but very complex question. I have served on the Planning Commission and currently serve on the Utility Board and the Port Commission. I feel being a responsive party to the concerns brought forward is step #1 in the recruitment process. When someone comes to a meeting and voices their concerns, we need to address what they bring forward. It is very off putting when you feel so strongly about something, that you finally muster up the courage to speak to a Board/Commission/Council, only to be argued with or not listened to. When people feel their voices matter, they are more likely to participate. I would tell anyone curious about what being a Commissioner or Board Member is like, to come to some meetings. All the groups that meet to discuss City business, would love to have more people in the meetings. These are big decisions made for many, decided by a few. Your input and background are important to the direction of this City. You matter.      

School Board
 Seat B
Candidate Jill Peters

Nome Nugget: What are your qualifications and why do you want to run for School Board?

Jill Peters: I am qualified to run for School Board because I am both a parent and a former teacher. I have been a foster parent for five years, and I was a teacher for six years with Nome Public Schools. Not only was I a teacher, but I have been running an inclusive and empowering Summer Work Program with Arctic Access for students ages 14-18 for the past four summers. This program is designed to lift up students who value job skills as their educational priority, regardless of their academic standing, attitude toward school, home situation or criminal record. The sense of pride that students develop, who are not “traditionally” seen as successful because of their struggles in school, has led students on the path of locating and holding jobs in our community. I have also been working this past year with recent high school graduates to help them find employment opportunities in our community.  I have organized and chaperoned the Nome-Beltz 8th grade Washington D.C. trip for four years, and have run multiple extracurricular opportunities, including Culture Club for a year.
I would like to serve on the School Board to bring the voice and perspective of both a foster parent and a former K-12 educator who is deeply committed to workforce readiness to the Board.

Nome Nugget: Describe your experience with education in Nome and highlight the changes you’d like to see in the Nome School District?

Jill Peters: This is my eighth year in Nome. For the past five years I have been a foster parent, raising teens through high school to graduation. My first six years I worked at Nome Public Schools as a Special Education Teacher at the Jr./Sr. High School. I taught Integrated Language Arts/Math/Lifeskills as the resource room teacher, in addition to collaborating with general education teachers on modifying material, accommodations and creating behavior plans.
Over the course of these six years I became passionate about providing transition services to students, and helping them to prepare to make the shift from being students into young adults who are ready to live independently and become contributing members of their community. One of the greatest accomplishments I helped the students achieve was the opening of the school store “Let Us Buy” in April 2017. The students were granted start-up money by the State of Alaska and the store was planned and operated by eight of my students.
It is my desire to see students gain transferable skills and feel a sense of independence, accomplishment, pride and see the concrete results of hard work that made me encourage eighth grade students to fundraise for the Washington D.C. trip. My goal with the trip was to bring every eighth grader who wanted to go, a task that would require immense fundraising. Our trip has since been centered on requiring students to work for their trip, some fundraising the entirety of their $3000 trip off their own work. This sense of teamwork, pride in their work and self-advocacy is what makes Nome’s students so special and amazing to work alongside.
I am proud to have been working with these students as a parent, a teacher, extra-curricular advisor, and now as a job coach these past eight years. Nome Public Schools has amazing, committed staff that work tirelessly to support students. All improvements, such as a greater focus on workplace readiness and preparedness for independent living as young adults, would build on the work they are already doing. I would also like to see populations of students who often struggle in the conventional, academic, collegiate track of school not only be successful, but celebrated.

Nome Nugget: How can the goals of the Nome Public Schools District be met with dwindling state funds in the future?

Jill Peters: There are several ways we can ensure NPS is funded moving forward. First and foremost, we must ensure that it is fully funded by the City Council to the maximum amount allowed by law. We must embrace virtual alternatives to practices that have been done in-person historically, i.e. travel for staff and conferences. I will, as part of the board, continue to advocate and help to secure grants to cover the expenses of the district wherever possible. While I have the average American’s understanding of finances, my knowledge and experience regarding state funding is limited. However, I look forward to collaborating with and learning from the more experienced, knowledgeable board members to come up with innovative ideas and solutions.

Nome Nugget: How can the School Board assist NPS administration to get through the COVID-19 pandemic and what lessons do you think were learned to prepare for disruptions like a pandemic?

Jill Peters: The School Board can help Nome Public Schools administration through the pandemic by identifying community partners and finding reliable access to the internet for all students. They can also provide transparency and communication at all levels between the school and community, to make sure that all community stakeholders know how the school is actively dealing with the pandemic.  
Educators have adapted to the constant changing demands brought on by the pandemic. They made the decision to ensure equity for all students by providing instruction in multiple forms, while also delivering food and support to all students.



The Nome Nugget

PO Box 610
Nome, Alaska 99762

Phone: (907) 443-5235
Fax: (907) 443-5112

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