Juneau’s Mayor Koelsch: Time for next generation to step up



Ken Koelsch, elected as Mayor of Juneau in a special election on March 15, 2016, announced today that he will not run for the office on Oct. 2.

“My commitment to this community will never cease – and yet it’s time to turn the reins of leadership over to the next generation,” Koelsch said in a statement.

“Thanks for allowing me the privilege of being your mayor. It will be weird to turn off the lights in my office for the last time and leave some things unfinished but that is the nature of the job and life. When I leave for the last time, it will be to go home to my wife of 50 years, Marian, and our children and grandchildren. It doesn’t get any better than that,”  he said.

“I am proud of what we’ve done for Juneau. Nothing is simple or easy but we tackled difficult and complex issues like homelessness and crime while still trying to pay attention to schools and streets and keeping taxes under control.

“I’ll miss strolling the halls of the Capitol every Friday morning, talking to legislators and trying to address their concerns. It was an honor getting to know some truly dedicated and amazing lawmakers from around Alaska. Out of 60 legislators, only three are from Juneau – we’re kind of outnumbered, so I thought it was important to make friends for the Capital City. Based on all the feedback I got, I think that was time well spent. “

Koelsch said he will not be endorsing anyone to succeed him, adding, “I understand we may have some great people stepping forward and I trust the community will make a good decision.”

Koelsch taught at Juneau-Douglas High School from 1968-1996, and served as the Port Director for U.S. Customs and Border Protection for 18 years. He was on the Juneau Assembly from 1997-2003, as well as serving on other boards and commissions before winning 59 percent of the vote in a special election for mayor in 2016.

This morning, Koelsch commented his journey from being a teacher at the local high school to being mayor:

“Being mayor wasn’t on my life lesson plans when we moved to Juneau in 1968 for a teaching job. Being mayor wasn’t on my bucket list when I retired from U.S. Customs in 2014 at the age of 70. But it happened thanks to the hard work of many and now I can check that box too.”

“A mayor accomplishes nothing by him or herself. It takes the dedication of eight other Assembly members, an engaged public, a City Manager and a City Attorney and a hard working group of city employees to produce the quality of goods and services expected by Juneau residents.”

“I have had the luxury of not having to be guided just by poll numbers or the loudest voices. I’ve had the luxury of trying to do what is right by relying on my family values and life experiences and my interactions with you.

He said he gathered input from the community constantly — from phone calls, emails, letters, Assembly meetings, neighborhood meetings, walking to City Hall from his home at the base of Mount Juneau, grocery shopping, and attending church.

“Being mayor isn’t theoretical. It’s where the rubber hits the road. It’s making decisions about taxing your hard-earned income and spending your money, funding education, dealing with crime, providing recreational opportunities, supporting our economic engines like government, mining, fishing, tourism, small businesses and trying to ensure there is a safety net where and when it is needed.”

Many friends consider Koelsch the “Poet Mayor,” whose gracious words come naturally from his lifetime love of language and literature. Koelsch was elected by a landslide in 2016 during the special election held when former Mayor Greg Fisk died unexpectedly Nov. 30, 2015.


  1. Too bad the Hermaphrodite Administration will still be in office on Oct. 2nd and the town still packed with Democrat appointees. Odds are Juneau will elect some lefty and continue to act out its death wish.

  2. To bad the homeless problem was not solved. I really liked this article so much it sounded like you were almost giving him sainthood.

  3. I have known Mayor Koelsch for 49 years. He is a remarkable human being. All the best, Ken.

  4. Could it be time for the next generation to step completely out of Juneau and get a life in the real world….

  5. I’ve known Mayor Koelsch since he was my high school English teacher. He was a tough and talented teacher – didn’t allow any slacking. And he’s laying down that same challenge in Juneau. Step up and lead your community; decide who should do it yourselves; my time at the helm is done. Ken was always a clear and level-headed communicator, so the fact that his retirement from public service is being handled in a low-key straightforward fashion, does not surprise me. Best of luck, Juneau. He’s a hard one to replace.

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