Jesse Kiehl’s election to the State Senate will create an open seat on the City and Borough of Juneau Assembly. Seven candidates have filed declarations to fill the seat. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire File)

Jesse Kiehl’s election to the State Senate will create an open seat on the City and Borough of Juneau Assembly. Seven candidates have filed declarations to fill the seat. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire File)

Seven candidates file for Kiehl’s Assembly seat

Appointment likely to be made Jan. 14 by Assembly

Seven people are now vying for the same City and Borough of Juneau Assembly seat.

Jesse Kiehl’s election to the State Senate for District Q will create a vacant Assembly seat, and four more people have Declaration of Candidacy forms before Tuesday’s deadline. Those four are Eric Forst, Alicia Hughes-Skandijs, Christopher Peloso and Martin Stepetin Sr.

Candidates Meilani Schijvens, Theresa Yvette Soutiere and Kate Troll were the first three to file, as the Empire reported earlier this month.

“I expected that there would be more applicants,” Troll said in an interview Friday. “I’m a little surprised it would be as high as seven, but it shows a lot of people are interested in their community.”

CBJ announced the seven-candidate pool late Friday morning.

Six of the candidates also filed letters of interest for the anticipated open seat; Peloso did not file a letter of interest. The forms and letters of interest can be read on the Assembly’s tab on the CBJ website.

The expected open seat will be filled by appointment, and the candidates will be interviewed by the Assembly Human Resources Committee on Thursday, Jan. 10.

“The interview process itself is open to the public at the meeting on the 1oth,” said Municipal Clerk/Election Official Beth McEwen. “As a courtesy, we ask the candidates not to sit in on each other’s interviews, but it is an open meeting and any interested members of the public can attend.”

However, McEwan said discussions leading to the appointment will be closed to the public.

Schijvens said she’s excited for the interview.

“Each of us coming into the interview comes from a different perspective,” she said. “I look forward to telling mine.”

The appointee will be voted on by the nine Assembly members, and a public announcement will likely be made at the Assembly meeting Jan. 14.

The appointee will then serve until the next regularly scheduled election in October. At that time, the District 1 seat will be placed on the municipal ballot.

The candidates

Not all candidates were immediately available by phone Friday morning. However, information about most candidates could be gleaned from their letters of interest.

• Forst has been a Juneau resident since 1996, this is his first time running for public office according to the letter of interest. Forst is a Rotarian and previously serves as Glacier Valley Rotary Club President, has served as Vice President of the Downtown Business Association, is a board member of the Greater Juneau Chamber of Commerce and a partner in the Red Dog Saloon, according to the letter.

“I just feel like I bring a different perspective to the Assembly that may not be represented now,” Forst said Friday when reached by phone.

• Hughes-Skandijs has been a Juneau resident for 12 years and this is her first time seeking office, according to her letter of interest and has been a grant administrator for the state for the past five years. Hughes-Skandijs has served as chair and treasurer for the Juneau chapter of the Alaska State Employees Association and a contract negotiator for the Southeast region, is on the board for the Alaska Folk Festival and the League of Women Voters, according to her letter of interest.

Hughes-Skandijs said when reached by phone that she wants to be more involved in the decision making regarding chronic topics of concern in MJuneau such as childcare, school district funding and affordable housing.

“I thought I had useful experience that could help the Assembly,” Hughes-Skandijs said.

• Schijvens is the owner and founder of Rain Coast Data, sits on the Northern Opportunity Strategy Committee for the state and the Juneau Downtown Blueprint Committee, according to their letter of interest, and has been obsessed with the local economy for the past 20 years. Schijvens spent four years on the Harborview Site Council and has been Executive Director for the Southeast Conference as a research analyst at McDowell Group, a program officer for Juneau Economic Development Council, a planning associate at Sheinberg Associates and a research analyst for the state, taught Alaska natural resource economic history at the University of Oregon and served as a staffer to US Legislative Minority Leader Tom Daschle, where they were appointed to the Marine Transportation Advisory Board and Governor Murkowski’s Transportation Team.

• Soutiere was married in Juneau in 2010 and has resided in Starr Hill since 2014, according to her letter of interest. Soutiere is an avid hiker, has a background in science and previously worked as a public defender for the state in Kotzebue, Nome, Fairbanks and Fort Yukon, followed by the Office of Public Advocacy as the sole criminal and parental representation staff attorney for Southeast; representing people in Juneau, Ketchikan, Metlakatla, Petersburg, Klawock, Sitka, Haines, Skagway, Hoonah, Angoon, Yakutat and Wrangell.

Soutiere owns a law firm in Juneau.

• Stepetin said when reached by phone he has been a Juneau resident since 2011 and is a first-time seeker of public office. Stepetin has worked at both Kensington and Greens Creek mines and has been a laborer in the Alaska Laborers’ Local 942 union., according to his letter of intent.

Stepetin’s letter states his wife and four kids are why he submitted a letter of interest, and said when reached by phone he has no particularly pet cause he would pursue if he fills the open seat.

“Nothing that really sticks out at a city level,” Stepetin said.

• Troll was previously an Assembly member from 2013-16 and served on the Human Resources, Lands and Finance Committee, according to her letter of interest. Troll previously served on the Ketchikan Gateway Borough Assembly from 1984-84, too. Additionally, Troll was an Executive Director for trade organizations and nonprofits and has volunteered in Juneau schools and hospice and is currently a Red Cross Volunteer.

“The important part is being a competent bridge to the next election,” Troll said.

She added her previous experience would enable her to fill that role.

• Peloso is a private attorney in Juneau has been a Juneau resident for nearly eight years, is currently on the Airport Board, he said when reached by phone. This is his first time seeking public office as well.

“I’m a big fan of Juneau and a big booster of this town, and I thought this was a good way to help give back to the community,” Peloso said.


• Contact reporter Ben Hohenstatt at (907)523-2243 or bhohenstatt@juneauempire.com.


Martin Stepetin Sr. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

Martin Stepetin Sr. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

Eric Forst (Courtesy Photo)

Eric Forst (Courtesy Photo)

Theresa Yvette Soutiere, Meilani Schijvens and Kate Troll

Theresa Yvette Soutiere, Meilani Schijvens and Kate Troll

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