In the hours following Mayor Ken Koelsch’s announcement that he will not run for re-election this fall, two Assembly members declared their candidacies for the position.
City Clerk Beth McEwen said by phone that they will probably have to resign from the Assembly to run for mayor, but McEwen needs to consult with the city attorney to be certain. In 2016, sitting assemblywoman Karen Crane resigned from the Assembly to run in a March special election that put Koelsch into office.
Gregory, 39, said in an interview that he believed that as soon as he turns in his nominating petition, he will have to resign his Assembly position. Candidates can officially file for the Oct. 2 election starting Aug. 3.
“It’s pretty exciting,” Gregory said. “Of course, I go into this thinking I’m the right guy for the job and I’m going to win, but the reality of it is that right now it’s a three-way race, and so you never know how those are going to play out. I very well might have had my last Assembly meeting on Wednesday at that Finance Committee meeting.”
In addition to Weldon and Gregory, the third candidate is Saralyn Tabachnick, executive director of Juneau’s domestic violence shelter, Aiding Women in Abuse and Rape Emergencies (AWARE). Gregory is on the AWARE board, and said he has a great deal of respect for Tabachnick and what she’s done for the community.
“None of this is personal. This is really about serving our community and I look forward to hearing what she has to say at the debates and hearing her focus. It really comes down to making sure our community has choices as to who they want to lead the Assembly over the next three years. It’s not personal between me or Saralyn or Beth; it’s really about who the community feels they can be best served by.”
Weldon, 53, said her ability to work with community groups — even those with opposing viewpoints — is a strength of hers. As a retired firefighter, Weldon said she is focused on improving public safety, and she has been an advocate for local business during her time on the Assembly.
“I’m sure people are tired of people hearing me say we need to boost our economy,” Weldon said Friday. “We need some economic development. We’re getting closer with our housing problems, but we still have some work to do with housing.”
Gregory, who works at Tlingit and Haida Regional Housing Authority, concurred that housing is a major issue in Juneau and needs to be a priority moving forward. He mentioned shoring up the city’s police and fire departments as well, especially Capital City Fire/Rescue, which has asked for help from the Assembly because of increasing call volumes.
Weldon, a fourth-generation Douglas resident, comes from a commercial fishing background. She worked for CCFR for 21 years, working her way up to being a division chief (today, that position is known as assistant chief). She has remained busy since her retirement in 2012, as she and her husband Greg own Glacier Auto Parts.
“I’m famous for saying I flunked retirement,” Weldon said. “I bought a business, joined the assembly. I’m just not much of a person to sit still.”
According to an announcement sent Friday, Robin Paul will be Weldon’s campaign chair and Valerie Mertz will be the treasurer.
Gregory is midway through his first term on the Assembly, and is the youngest member of the body. He said his enthusiasm and energy will serve him well, but he also hopes to be an example for other young people in town looking to get into politics.
“I think that makes a difference, because this is the generation that has to get involved,” Gregory said. “… I want other younger individuals to get involved in our community and make an impact on things that matter to us most and make sure we lay down a good foundation for the next generation that’s coming up, even younger than me and you, to make sure they have a stable foundation to build upon.”
Reporter James Brooks contributed to this report.
• Contact reporter Alex McCarthy at 523-2271 or email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter at @akmccarthy.