Mayor Jim Matherly: Will he fend off Kathryn Dodge in Fairbanks mayor’s race?




Incumbent Fairbanks mayor Jim Matherly will face off with Democrat Kathryn Dodge in Fairbanks’ municipal election next week.

The entire state will be watching. Dodge’s campaign represents a growing progressive-left wing of the Golden Heart City’s political landscape.

Must Read Alaska caught up with Mayor Matherly recently to discuss the race and hear his pitch to swing voters unsure of their vote on October 1. 

“The stakes are pretty high in my opinion. Fairbanks is a pretty conservative town, and I hope to emulate those conservative values” said Matherly. 

The incumbent mayor cited public safety as one of his main priorities should Fairbanks residents elect him to another term. Matherly also cited the opioid epidemic as a pressing problem for the city.

“We need to get back to a fully staffed police force. It’s the only area of the city that’s not fully staffed right now, but we’re getting there. I brought on a new police chief who’s a great lady and she’s going to work really hard [to fully staff the police department]” he said. 

Matherly appointed Anchorage Police Department lieutenant Nancy Reeder to the city’s top law enforcement post in April upon the retirement of Chief Eric Jewkes. She is Fairbanks’ first female police chief. 

Matherly’s most prominent challenger, Kathryn Dodge, ran for state house in 2018, losing to incumbent Representative Bart LeBon by just one vote. She has since aimed her efforts towards local politics. Her campaign website,, displays endorsements from several prominent Fairbanks groups including Interior Democrats of Alaska, Planned Parenthood, and the Fairbanks Central Labor Council

Dodge’s supporters include numerous progressive activists in the Fairbanks area, many emboldened and angered by Matherly’s recent veto of City Ordinance 6093, the so-called “equal rights ordinance” to prevent discrimination in housing, employment, and public accommodations on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. 

“I was on board [with the ordinance] originally, but after we did our work sessions…I didn’t like the way it sounded, it didn’t have a religious exemption in it and we needed to do some homework on it. The ordinance was introduced but it looked very different at the end of its period of debate.”

Matherly vetoed the ordinance after several weeks of discussion and 4-2 passage by the Fairbanks City Council. 

“I decided to veto it because I thought that an issue this big, this passionate, belonged on the ballot for the people to decide.”

When asked about his strongest opponent, Matherly refused to engage in negative campaign rhetoric. 

“Kathryn Dodge and I go back a long time and she has served Fairbanks in many different ways. That said, she’s more liberal minded than myself and she made some decisions on the borough assembly that I don’t think were in the best interest of Fairbanks.” 

Either way, it seems the candidates’ worst enemy isn’t each other. It’s voter turnout. 

“We’ve averaged 10 percent or less in the city in prior mayoral races. It’s very disheartening. In 2016 when I won for the first time, I got 1,700 votes, my opponent got 1,300 votes, and a third candidate got around 300 votes. That’s out of around 28,000 registered voters in the city limits,” he said.

And, with a progressive base emboldened by his veto last spring, Matherly reminded supporters that their votes matter more than ever. 

“Local politics is where the rubber meets the road and we’ve got to get involved…we’ve reached a place in discourse in America where disagreement means hate. I do not subscribe to that for one second” he said. 

Running for city mayor certainly isn’t an easy task, and it’s not always a fun one either. But Mayor Matherly is quick to shrug off any negativity, even during the heat of campaign season. 

“We’ve got a terrific town with a bright future, I know we do. We just need to fully staff the police department, get rid of some problem properties in town, and tackle the homelessness issue, which we’re making big strides on”.

The question for Fairbanks voters is clear: Are they on board with continuing Mayor Jim Matherly’s vision for the city over the next three years, or are they ready to take the Golden Heart City in a definitively different direction?

This question will be answered next Tuesday. If you aren’t sure of your polling place, be sure to visit this link and find out. 

Kobe Rizk is a lifelong Fairbanks resident studying history at Yale University.


  1. The Homeless problem should not be the focus of Government. Who should be taking care of this problem is the Churches and Benevolent organizations. This should be one of their primary focuses.
    ” _ _ the so-called “equal rights ordinance” to prevent discrimination in housing, employment, and public accommodations on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.” is also none of the business of Government. “We The People” have an Unalienable (Un a Lien Able) Right to Peacefully Discriminate against anything or anyone we choose to. That is our Right!!! We are all suppose to be Free People to run our own lives any way we want to as long as no violence is involved. Our Private Property is suppose to be ours and ours alone. Anything else is Socialism.
    Seymour Marvin Mills Jr. sui juris

  2. It amazes me how I continue to see a pattern with certain media outlets. There are actually 4 candidates for Mayor. Lakesha Jordan and Frank Turney are also in this race. The fact that this article speaks about this race, as if there are only two candidates, is completely misleading to the readers.

  3. Fairbanks conservatives tend to only work to benefit a small number of businesses. Our system is inefficient, non-inclusive (not just LBGTQ issues), and outdated. Downtown is crumbling.

    Jim Matherly is a nice guy all around, but he puts the interests of his supporters above common sense politics. *insert issue any issue here* should not be vetoed when passed by council 4-2. That’s troubling. Hiring a well qualified police chief that happens to be a woman (as noted), isn’t the radical change we need.

    Kathryn Dodge has ideas to move Fairbanks forward in a way that will create vibrancy.

    Dodge is focused on community policing. Our choice is to stay in neutral, until young families leave, or listen to them. There are win-win solutions that return diversity & vibrancy to the economy, with natural benefits for all members. It takes someone being willing to care about groups outside their interests.

    The fact is that our community has been pushing for greater civic engagement. Some ‘conservatives’ didn’t notice until the last minute, and now there’s a push. Nice try. People care about genuinity, and I hope voter turnout reflects that.

    It’s not all about social issues. A growing number of rising adult entrepreneurs can’t find a place to grow despite vacancy everywhere. We’re spending more under Matherly. This is why local politics aren’t as black & white as State & National.

    Fortunately, our community has strongly, and vocally, stood up against negative rhetoric, and attacking the press (yes, it happens even in local campaigns smh). ?

  4. Our Fairbanks City property taxes are supporting the alcohol industry and alcoholics to the tune of over $30,000,000 a year here in Fairbanks. The city only collects .05 per gallon in alcohol taxes when it costs the city 10 times that much just to deal with the problems (half the police budget) it creates. That doesn’t even include the fire department costs, which are in the millions also. It’s time to make alcohol pay it’s way instead of being a vampire on the taxpayers. Alcohol should be revenue neutral, meaning it should be taxed enough to pay for the problems it creates. Both the front runners for mayor don’t support alcohol being revenue neutral. Jim – “Well, we get a lot of push back from local group.” Kathrin -“That’s an interesting idea.” They all bow to the alcohol industry and take their money. So does the city counsel. Sad.

    • Hey Jule Miller, this idea is actually sensible and doable. My name is Lakesha Jordan. I’m also running for Fairbanks City Mayor. My entire campaign has been based on expansion of the methods that I have been using as a 17 year long advocate and mental and behavioral health profession for 10 years. I have run my entire campaign go door to door and business to business, because I know solutions exist in the ideas of our residents. I would love for you to contact me. Hearing the voices of our residence has given me confidence in this race and I want everyone to know that I believe we (the residence) are the change we need to enhance this community forward. You can reach me at http://www.jordan4mayor19@gmail or call 9078883233. We do better when we come together as a whole community. Thank you for your thought provoking idea.

  5. If Fairbanks was full of trann…..excuse me, transexuals, Katie Dodge would be driving the Golden Heart city’s new Cadillac. But the Banks has mostly straights and normal breeders. Thus, Matherly gets the nod and will be using the old Plymouth van.
    Prediction:. Matherly by more than ONE vote.

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