City council bios
Tony Gorman photo
A number of council hopefuls spoke with voters – and each other – after Wednesday night’s Meet the Candidates forum in Valdez.
Wanda Clark – City Council
Wanda Clark, age 42, has lived in Valdez 15 years. She is general manager of the Valdez Senior Center. She has served on the Planning and Zoning Commission, and serves as a core member of the City of Valdez’s Strategic Planning Core.
When asked why she is running a seat on the Valdez City Council and how she will make a difference she wrote “I am running for office because I love my community. I see strengths and weaknesses, and I feel I have the ambition to be there for the community members I would be serving. I feel we need to address cost of living, infrastructure, and the overall economy. Unless these items are addressed and done so soon our small community will continue to decrease in size. I feel I have goals in site that are not only accomplishable, but have to be addressed soon. I will do just that—hit the road running to make a difference for all of us.”
Richard C. Long – City Council
Rich Long, age 59, is the owner of Long’s Marine. He served five years Ports and Harbor commission and three years on the Valdez City Council.
When asked why he is running a seat on the Valdez City Council and how he will make a difference he wrote “I am running because I am concerned about the current growth of our government infrastructure without any corresponding growth in the private sectors. We cannot continue to maintain and grow our government infrastructure without also growing the private sector economy. We need to maintain our infrastructure but we cannot expect to do it with a declining population base, fewer jobs and businesses, not to mention a predictable shrinking tax base. In short government growth without private sector growth is NOT sustainable. I will try to foster significant new developments, such as a Marine Industrial Complex coupled with a Marine Trades Academy as just one possibility among many. The time has come for us to change our image. We need to change from an adversarial relationship with the industry that is our main economy to a partnership type of relationship. I believe that it is crucial l to our future economic well-being. A long term solution to the TAPS valuation process and a partnership with industry are cornerstones to being able to maintain a balanced budget in future years.”
Nate Smith – City Council
Nate Smith, age 40, has lived in Valdez four years. He is the Operations Manager at Bell Tech Inc. He currently serves on the Board of Directors – Valdez Convention and Visitors Bureau, Commissioner – Ports & Harbors Commission, since November 2012.
When asked why he is running a seat on the Valdez City Council and how he will make a difference he wrote “Nate is running because he does not want to look back 15 years from now wondering if he should have, reflecting that during a critical time he stood back and decided to watch others determine the fate and future local economic climate and quality of life of the community. He sees Valdez’s potential and wants this community to be all it can be for the residents, visitors and future generations. Nate will be a true asset to City Council who listens to the residents’ concerns and make informed decisions based on what is best for the community and the city.”
James “Hotai” Williams – City Council
Hotai Williams, age 68, has lived in Valdez since 1974. He says he is retired but calls himself a political antagonist, balloon magician and “Alaskan Picker.”
He served on Valdez City Council from1983-1985. Williams wrote “For 39 years I have tried to protect seniors from overzealous city staff.”
When asked why he is running a seat on the Valdez City Council and how he will make a difference he wrote “I believe we elect council members to work for us and protect the citizens from the city administrations gone bad. This council, I feel, has failed miserably in doing so. If elected I will try to correct what is seen as wrong.”
Mike Wells – City Council - Incumbent
Mike C. Wells, age 45, was born in Valdez and says he “lived here most all my life.” He is the Executive Director for Valdez Fisheries Development Association. He has served two terms Valdez City Council, 12 years Ports & Harbors Commission and the Valdez Permanent Fund Investment Committee.
When asked why he is running a seat on the Valdez City Council and how he will make a difference he wrote “I’m running again for Valdez City Council because I enjoy working with our residents to better our community. I will continue to support and improve our schools and address aging city infrastructure. I will stay actively engaged in planning our city’s future and encourage honest discussion and accountability when it comes to budgeting and city spending. I am approachable and will listen to issues that are important to you. Valdez has a bright future and I am excited to be a part of it. I would be honored to represent the community for another term and would appreciate your vote.”
Selah Bauer – City Council
Sela Bauer, age 40, has lived in Valdez two years. She is the Business, Membership & Events Coordinator for the Valdez Convention & Visitors Bureau. She currently serves on the Valdez Bear Working Group.
When asked why she is running a seat on the Valdez City Council and how she will make a difference she wrote “I’m running for City Council because I want to serve my community in a meaningful way. Valdez can improve for people living, working and vacationing here. I would love to see Valdez and its businesses held to a higher standard of excellence. Our roads, parking lots, parks, services, schools and economy can improve. When oil production slows to a trickle, Valdez will need to find other ways to generate income. Economic diversification is the key to solving such imperative issues. Valdez can build its economy, further showcase its natural beauty and out-door activities and become a living and vacation hotspot.”
Nikki Tifft – City Council
Nicole Carrie Ann Tifft, age 34, says she moved to Valdez with her family in 1990, “and I lived here for ten years, moved to the lower 48, and then my son and I moved back three years ago. “
She is the manager of the Video department at Safeway. She is new to elected or appointed office.
When asked why she is running a seat on the Valdez City Council and how she will make a difference she wrote “I am running for public office because I love Valdez. It’s an amazing town, full of great people, and I love living here. I was quite sad when I came back and learned of all the shops that were no longer here, or had changed, for the worse. I want to help Valdez be here, and be the great little town that it is for the future. I may not know anything about local government, but that will change, and fast. I have no preconceived ideas or special interests, I simply want to help Valdez be a wonderful town.”
Nancy R. Lethcoe,
Nancy Lethcoe, age 73, has lived in Valdez since 1977. She is retired, but still operating Prince William Sound Books, a publishing business and works part-time at the Valdez Marine & Outdoor Store.
She has served as Vice-president of the Valdez Food Bank, President of the Board of the Alaska Wilderness Recreation and Tourism Association, 1988-89 Governor’s committee on Forestry Practices (representing fishing [CDFU] and tourism interests, NOAA Shoreline Cleanup Committee during Exxon Valdez Oil Spill, Providence Hospital Advisory Council (current) and Epiphany Lutheran Church Council (current).
When asked why she is running a seat on the Valdez City Council and how she will make a difference she wrote “I am running for the Valdez City Council because I enjoy pushing myself intellectually. I will do my best to understand the complex issues facing the City Council including diversifying our economy, reducing the cost of living, providing public services, implementing the Strategic Plan, establishing investment policies for the permanent fund, and adopting a budget. Until the Council knows the Alaska Supreme Court’s decision on the 2006-12 oil and gas revenues, I favor a conservative 2014 budget that provides the City with more funds for maintenance (including snow removal) and less for new projects.”
Karen Ables – City Council - Incumbent
Karen Ables did not disclose her age, but said she has lived in Valdez for over 22 years. She is the owner of The Fat Mermaid, Karen’s Catering, and Puddle Jumpers Saloon.
She has served two previous terms on the Valdez City Council.
When asked why she is running a seat on the Valdez City Council and how she will make a difference she wrote “I represent the business owners of Valdez. The small business is the heartbeat and success of any community. It is important that people recognize the value that our businesses give to its community. Without them, Valdez cannot exist. It is with passion and positive direction for my community that gives me the strength to continue my need for helping Valdez find a solution to cheaper energy, lower taxes and a sustainable community when the oil runs out. We need to find other ways to exist and become a multi-sustainable community.”
Dennis Fleming – City Council
Dennis Fleming, age 43, has lived in Valdez 43 years. He is the Senior Response Coordinator with Alyeska/SERVS. He did not list any previous elected office positions or terms on appointed boards or commissions.
When asked why he is running a seat on the Valdez City Council and how he will make a difference he wrote “The City must make economic growth a top priority, by maximizing collaboration with business and citizens alike. Tourism is a vital part of our economy and the appearance of our city plays a large role in its fate. Other topics that need to be addressed by the Council are rising energy costs and lack of affordable housing. If elected, I look forward to collaborating with all stakeholders with the goal of making Valdez an ideal place to work and live. I will bring new ideas and fresh perspectives into the process and work to reestablish trust of the citizens of Valdez.”
David Lyle – City Council
No photo available.
David Lyle, age 26, has lived in Valdez for two years. He is a full time student and was formerly in the US Army. He said of his previous public service, “I have severed on numerous military boards from soldier/Nov of the year, post beautification committee, post commanders community outreach' post emergency planning, and others. I am on the Valdez coordinated transportation board through Connecting Ties.”
When asked why he is running a seat on the Valdez City Council and how he will make a difference he wrote “Reason for running is simple. I believe that business as usual is not working for our residents. We need to change the shape of city council because at the local level we need to be more open and accountable to our residents. The mission of city council is to improve the quality of life for the residents and the council continues to do business as usual. I want to make Valdez the number one place to live work and raise a family in the state and the US as a whole. It's time to see common sense applied and make the council be representatives of and for the residents.”
Kyle Hoffman – City Council
Kyle Hoffman did not respond to enquiries by the Valdez Star for candidate biographical information. Nor did he supply a photo of himself
Ruth Knight – City Council
Ruth E. Knight, age 55, has lived in Valdez since 1999. She is a teacher with Valdez City Schools. She currently serves on: Providence Valdez Health Advisory Council, Alaska Science and Engineering Fair Board, Alaska Science Teachers’ Association board, and Valdez American Federation of Teacher. She also served one term on the Wrangell City Council,
When asked why she is running a seat on the Valdez City Council and how she will make a difference she wrote “I want to be your public SERVANT and won’t back down from doing the right thing even if it is hard. Our government “of the people, by the people and for the people” works best when citizens are listened to, treated respectfully, and encouraged to help make decisions. I will work to have the public process open to all. I care deeply about Education, Health Care and Economic Diversification. My belief is: a Stronger Economy/more Employment = Stronger Education/Health Care Systems. Complacency will kill Valdez! Please show you care about Valdez’s future by getting involved and voting on October 1.”