OR WILL EUGENE SMITH BE WALKER’S CHOICE?
Thursday is the final day for applicants to get their resumes in for the House District 40 vacancy.
So far, we know with certainty that Sandy Shroyer-Beaver of Kotzebue has applied. Shroyer-Beaver is a member of the Kotzebue City Council. She let her intent be known on Facebook in December.
But Must Read Alaska is also learning that Ben Nageak, of Barrow, is putting his name in for consideration. The former representative for District 40 lost the seat to Dean Westlake in 2016 by just eight votes, after the Alaska Democratic Party came after him with all guns blazing. Nageak had joined the Republican-led majority in the House and was chair of the Natural Resources Committee. That offended Democrats and they “primaried” him with Dean Westlake, a known sexual harasser.
Westlake’s resignation was official on Dec. 25. He had been accused of sexual harassment while serving in the Legislature over this past year.
In addition to those two names, the former mayor of the city of Kotzebue Eugene Smith has resurfaced.
Smith is the former chief of staff to the mayor of the Northwest Arctic Borough. He is associated with Gov. Bill Walker through John Baker, who is a close ally of Walker’s and whose family runs successful companies in the region.
But questions about both Smith and Baker were raised at a December, 2016 retreat of the Northwest Arctic Borough because of a controversial school construction project for Kivalina, in which Baker’s company proposed that it receive a no-bid contract with a 20 percent management fee attached to it, which they later re-proposed at 12 percent. The overall project was worth about $60 million. The management fee seemed extraordinarily high in either case. Shortly after the third of three meetings on the proposed contract, Smith was let go from his position in the borough.
“The meeting revealed a sharp division – at least at the time – between the mayor’s administration and the school district when Richards called for a vote on a proposal to award a construction manager project for construction of a new Kivalina school.
“It was the third time in a month that the Assembly had been asked to consider the proposal. Previous resolutions specified Remote Solutions, a company owned by Iditarod mushers John Baker and Katherine Keith, as a recipient of the no-bid contract. An attorney for the school district wrote that the proposal might violate a state law that requires competitive bidding on such projects, while district officials argued they could perform the same work for less money.
“This decision should not be made in Seattle, Washington,” school district director of property services Craig McConnell testified at the Dec. 16 meeting. “It should be made here in our region. So people can speak in person.”
“Savok said the location of the meeting was a matter of common-sense timing and convenience.
“I don’t think there was any withholding of public involvement in any way, shape or form,” he said. “The meeting just happened to coincide where all Assembly members were present.”
Baker’s company, Remote Solutions, won the bid. And since Baker is pulling for Eugene Smith, some people in the borough say it is a foregone conclusion that Walker will pick Smith.
Will the governor go with the Baker recommendation?
Will this be the Year of the Woman for the Northwest Arctic Borough and Sandy Shroyer-Beaver?
Or will Nageak, the man who lost the seat when the Division of Elections allowed people in some communities to vote two ballots, be appointed to finish the term of Dean Westlake? That would seem to be the choice the best respects the will of the voters, but it may not advance the Walker-Mallott political agenda.
The final answer may be none of the above, but we will know within a few days.