The Valdez Star - Serving Prince William Sound and Copper River Basin

Valdez Star 

O'Neil elected to be mayor of Valdez during the May 2 municipal elections

New and familiar faces will take oath of office next week according to the city clerk


Valdez Star photo

Election officials met Wednesday morning to count and validate questioned ballots after the May 1 municipal elections.

A newcomer to local politics was elected mayor of Valdez during the town's municipal elections.

Jeremy O'Neil – who is the administrator of the local hospital, Providence Valdez Medical Center - was elected mayor in a landslide against contenders Jim Shirrell and Darren Reese, both sitting council members with one and two years remaining on their terms.

O'Neil received 578 votes compared to Shirrell's 160 and Reese's 149 votes. This is the final certified count, which includes absentee and valid questioned ballots.

The results were certified by the Valdez City Council last Wednesday.

Incumbent Dennis Fleming was easily reelected to a three-year term on city council with 470 votes, the highest number in a field of six contenders for two open terms; Ron Ruff won the second seat with 397 votes.

In the days before the election, candidate Bob Engbretson announced on social media that he was dropping out of the race for city council and asked voters to not cast a vote in his favor; it was too late to have his name stricken from the actual ballots according to the city clerk's office.

Incumbent Chris Moulton won the race for a two-year term on council, besting opponent Sherikay Griffith by 200 votes in the final count.

Dr. Kathy Todd, incumbent, also won her reelection bid for a three-year term on the board of education for Valdez City Schools with 672 votes. Joe Lally, running for elected office for his first time, won a seat on the school board against incumbent Dolores Gard by a solid 300 votes.

Official statistics for the election show a turnout of only 29 percent – but that number is likely skewed.

Valdez, which the US Census Bureau says has a population of 3,862 people (2016) though the city claims a population of 4,353 people, has a voter roll from the State of Alaska with 3,151 names registered.

A copy of the certified election results are published on page 12 of this edition of the Valdez Star.

The new mayor and council members will be sworn into office this Tuesday, May 15, during the regularly scheduled city council meeting.

This was the third municipal election where the City of Valdez used its own voting machines it leases from Dominion Voting Systems, Inc.

The machines came to Valdez in 2016 under a five-year lease and were not an outright purchase.

Dominion is one of three companies the State of Alaska is eyeing to replace its obsolete Diebold machines, which are still in use for statewide elections, including Valdez.

Last Thursday, Lt. Gov. Byron Mallott's Election Policy Work Group (EPWG) announced it was "exploring various ballot delivery options" with an eye towards replacing Alaska's aging Diebold machines, which it says were first put into service in Alaska back in 1998.

Source: City of Valdez

"While the system is still fully operational, federally certified, and accurately counts ballots, its expected life span was 20-25 years," Mallott's office said last week in a press release, "and replacement parts are no longer manufactured."

The group will also attend a presentation by the Anchorage City Clerk giving an analysis of that city's vote by mail in its municipal election.

Valdez has reported a high rate of satisfaction with the leased Dominion voting machines since they were put into service.

The total annual managed service contract with Dominion is $7,510/year for a total of five years, paid for by the City of Valdez for its municipal elections only. There are two years left on the contract.


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