With one term on the City and Borough of Juneau’s City Assembly under her belt, Michelle Bonnet Hale is running again, seeking a second, three-year term.
Hale is running to maintain her District 2 Mendenhall Valley seat. So far, she is the only District 2 candidate to announce a run in the October municipal election.
“It really is the best job I’ve ever had,” she said during a recent visit to the Empire. “My experience stands up. I can make good decisions. I like working with people.”
Hale said that her term on the assembly has been full of “grueling decisions,” and that she carefully considered whether to run again.
“As we moved into 2021, I decided that if I was going to run again I’d have to have a way to make me happy,” she said, adding that she worked on exercising more and taking care of herself so that she could have more bandwidth for public service.
“It was a hard year with COVID, particularly the summer of 2020,” she said. “I am proud of the assembly’s response to COVID-19. I’m proud my fingerprints are on the mask mandate.”
Overall, she said she’d rate her first-term service on the assembly at a B+ if she used a letter grade system.
She said the first few months on the assembly included time to come up to speed on the job and that her knowledge of how things work is an asset going into a second term.
“People thank me for my thoughtful approach. I’m analytical. I always do my homework,” she said.
Looking back on her service so far, she said she was surprised by the sheer volume of work that comes with being a member of the assembly.
“Juneau does everything from the ski area to the hospital board,” she said, pointing out that Juneau’s unified approach to city and borough governance increases the workload for local officials, as no county or other overlapping government body steps in to manage aspects of operations.
On the issues
Hale sees economic recovery as a critical issue facing Juneau.
“As the old saying goes, it’s the economy, stupid,” she said. “We really need to stay ahead of that issue and keep our finger on the pulse of the recovery. I want to make sure our residents and businesses are coming out intact and whole.”
She’s also keen to discuss the recommendations of the Visitor Industry Task Force.
“We need to dig into that. We need to be thoughtful about the ballot initiatives and look at things through the lens of the taskforce,” she said.
Quality of life issues, especially for senior citizens, remains a key area of concern for her.
Earlier this year, she was the driving force behind a new ordinance to limit the use of fireworks in the city and borough — a proposal she put forward after watching her dog suffer from the related noise and hearing from constituents who wanted to see more limits on fireworks.
Assembly members went through several machinations before the regulations were finalized. She counts that experience as a success and an example of how she works with others toward progress, not necessarily perfection.
“We juggle and make things better,” she said.
She said that she’s enjoyed her time on the Public Works Committee and is intrigued by the possibility of forming a task force to consider a zero waste plan for Juneau.
“I have a fairly gritty background,” she said. “I think that’s why I like engineering. That makes sense to me.”
Hale was born in Juneau and grew up in Alaska’s bush, living on Prince of Wales Island as a child. She completed high school via correspondence classes from the island.
Then, she attended college locally and in the lower 48, starting out at the University of Alaska Southeast and moving to the University of Louisiana at Lafayette.
She holds a degree in analytical chemistry and spent 30 years working on water quality issues. She also has a master’s degree in software development. Currently, she’s the co-owner and operator of Picture This, a framing shop downtown.
She’s been married to her husband, Jim, for nine years and is the stepmother to his five grown children.
She enjoys having breakfast at the Sandpiper on Saturday morning and likes to take her two standard poodles for long walks and swims on the Dredge Lake Trails.
October election heats up
Currently, there are three candidates for the District 1 seat and Mayor Beth Weldon has announced that she is seeking a second term.
Citizens interested in running for an open seat can file with the city clerk until July 26. The filing deadline is earlier than it’s been in the past because the October election will be conducted by mail.
• Contact reporter Dana Zigmund at email@example.com or 907-308-4891.