Andi Story doesn’t always know the right answer, but she does know where to find it: She asks around.
In a Monday morning interview with the Empire, the Democratic candidate for Mendenhall Valley’s House District 34 said she believes making good decisions involves bringing as many ideas into play as possible. That includes getting opinions and suggestions from the kind of people who don’t show up to public meetings.
“Always, as legislators, you have to be aware of, ‘OK, who’s not here?’ and you have to reach out,” she said.
It’s a strategy that served her on Juneau’s Board of Education for 15 years, and it’s an idea that she expects would serve her well in the Alaska Legislature. The only difference is the scope.
“When you talk about mobilizing people, it’s important to not just do that in Juneau in your role as a legislator, but to do it statewide,” she said.
Story said her philosophy of government is that government should do the work of the people.
“We are the government — I am the government, every individual is,” she said.
The trouble is figuring out what the work and will of the people is. That’s why she believes in not just listening, but reaching out to people who may feel disenfranchised or ignored.
Story, 59, was born in Olivia, Minnesota, graduating from Detroit Lakes High School in 1977. She attended Moorhead State University, receiving her degree in 1982. That year, she moved to Juneau. After four years in the capital city, she moved to San Diego to pursue a master’s degree in social work. After earning that in 1990, she moved back to Juneau and has lived in the city ever since.
Story is married to engineer Mike Story and they have three adult children: Ellen, Mallory and Ryan.
Story’s passion is education. In addition to her work on Juneau’s school board, she helped found and operate Great Alaska Schools, a statewide nonpartisan organization devoted to lobbying on behalf of public education. That, together with her work on the school board, taught her the value of networking and acting as a group.
“I really think you can move things,” she said.
Going door to door in the Mendenhall Valley, she said she has heard from voters that their No. 1 issue is public safety.
“People really want to feel safe in their neighborhoods,” she said.
To meet that need, she believes there should be some changes to the section of the criminal code that involves people who commit second, third, or additional crimes. She also said adequate pretrial monitoring is critical, as is making sure prosecutor positions and police jobs are staffed.
Talking with members of the Juneau Police Department, she heard calls for the return of the state’s pension plan in order to help recruitment.
“That is really important,” she said. “It’s part of the puzzle to how we get back to public safety.”
Another part of the puzzle is dealing with the state’s fiscal situation. As health care costs rise annually, it becomes more expensive to provide health care to teachers and other public employees.
“Health care costs are now a third of the admin costs (for Juneau’s school district),” Story said.
With those increases, “if we flat-fund education, flat funding means cuts,” she said.
She said early education is a priority for her, and the reason is straightforward: A child who enters kindergarten at a three-year-old’s education level has much more ground to make up than someone who’s reading and writing at their age level. They might never make up that ground, even if they’re learning at the same rate as everyone else.
“Kids are having to make two years of growth in one year,” she said.
Kids left behind in school might be left behind as adults, and that makes them more likely to run into some kind of trouble.
Fixing things at the start means problems don’t develop later on, and that kind of early-fix approach is something Story wants to bring to more than education, if voters approve her candidacy.
“We have so much opportunity,” Story said. “It’s an exciting time to be able to serve up there.”
Ahead of the Nov. 6 general election, the Empire is publishing profiles of the six local candidates who will appear on the ballot. One will run each day. Here’s when you can expect to see a story:
• Oct. 18: Don Etheridge
• Oct. 19: Chris Dimond
• Oct. 21: Jesse Kiehl
• Oct. 22: Jerry Nankervis
• Oct. 23: Andi Story
• Oct. 24: Sara Hannan
• Contact reporter James Brooks at firstname.lastname@example.org or 523-2258.