Assembly member and legislative candidate Jerry Nankervis chairs a public safety committee meeting at City Hall on Tuesday, Dec. 5, 2017. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

Assembly member and legislative candidate Jerry Nankervis chairs a public safety committee meeting at City Hall on Tuesday, Dec. 5, 2017. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

Deputy Mayor Nankervis seeks to leap from city hall to Capitol

Deputy Mayor Jerry Nankervis doesn’t let much get in the way of his fall deer hunt. That includes a run for the Alaska Legislature.

Last month, Nankervis filed a letter of intent with the Alaska Public Offices Commission, issued a press release, and went hunting. Now that he’s back in town, he’s hoping his campaign will be as successful as the hunt.

Nankervis sat down with the Empire for an interview not long after his return, and he said he’s running for a simple reason: He thinks he can do better than Rep. Justin Parish, the Democratic incumbent who represents House District 34.

“I don’t think I’m any different than any other person that wants to be in a political office, in that if there’s already somebody there, the person who throws their name in the hat thinks they can do better,” he said.

Nankervis is Juneau’s deputy mayor, but longtime city residents know him best for his longtime stint as a police officer and his frequent appearances as a hockey referee and player. Nankervis joined the Juneau Police Department in April 1987 and rose through the ranks, becoming a captain before retiring in 2011. At the time, he said he’d continue to fish commercially (he still holds a permit) and keep up with his hobbies.

In 2012, he was elected to the City and Borough of Juneau Assembly, and he was re-elected in 2015.

Born in Flint, Michigan, he attended Northern Michigan University, where he met his wife, Lisa Golisek. It was she who brought him to Alaska, first to Anchorage, and then to Kodiak, where he worked for the Alaska Department of Fish and Game. He put himself through the state’s police officer training program, and after graduation was offered jobs with the Kodiak and Juneau police departments. Lisa had a job offer in Juneau, so the decision was an easy one, Nankervis said.

While at the police department, he helped organize the officers’ labor union and managed it for a decade. He and Lisa have two sons, Ian and Elliot.

He’s still working out his positions on state issues, he said, but some things are clear. Where Parish supports a state income tax to help erase Alaska’s multibillion-dollar budget deficit, he’s opposed. He’s in favor of more resource development, he says, and of a road north from Juneau.

At a Nov. 28 fundraiser in the Orca Room near Frontier Suites, he explained that he was encouraged to run for the Legislature by Republican members of the Legislature. According to the state’s voter database, Nankervis was a registered unaffiliated voter until shortly before deciding to run for the Legislature. He said he and Mayor Ken Koelsch, who was at the fundraiser, spoke to lawmakers this year on regular tours to handle any problems they were having with city matters, and it was during those tours that he heard they were dissatisfied with Parish.

“I decided after watching long enough, that there were just some things being said that I don’t think help us get along with the rest of the state very well,” Nankervis said.

The state primary is more than nine months away. The general election is 11 months away. Nankervis told his audience at the fundraiser that he will spend the next few months explaining himself on the issues, but “If you’ve watched me for the last five years, you’ve got a pretty good idea.”

Including his deer hunt, Nankervis has taken a slow approach to starting his campaign. He has no website or campaign staff, and he doesn’t even have a personal Facebook page yet, some thing he told the Empire he’ll likely have to change. At last month’s fundraiser, the 38 attendees offered contributions in plain white envelopes with scribbled messages of encouragement.

He said asking for money at those fundraisers was like “eating soap” the first time he had to do it, and he’s afraid he’s getting calloused to doing it. He’d prefer to keep homebrewing and baking — he’s a fan of “The Great British Bake Off,” he said.

When it comes to the election, he said he wants people to understand that he’s a capable diplomat who’s willing to compromise.

“You never ever agree with anybody 100 percent of the time, and if you do, you should marry them, but you probably can’t because it’s you. There’s nobody, there’s absolutely nobody you’ll agree with 100 percent of the time,” he said. “People are going to make their decisions about me based on their observations of my actions and not upon what I say. I can sit and talk until I’m blue in the face, but they’re going to make up their own mind.”


• Contact reporter James Brooks at james.k.brooks@juneauempire.com or call 523-2258.


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