Greg Smith is making his first run for public office, as he vies for one of two District 1 seats, but he’s far from a novice to politics.
He’s a legislative aide to state Rep. Andi Story, D-Juneau, and has also acted as campaign manager for former Juneau mayor Greg Fisk. Fisk won his campaign but died shortly after being elected.
“I love this place. I was born and raised here. Juneau offered me a lot of great things in my life,” Smith said. “And I want to keep it a safe, vibrant, fun place to raise a family, to start a business, to retire.”
Smith has a number of ideas of bringing more professionals to Juneau, growing the population and the economy. Juneau could have considerable appeal to young families, Smith said.
“Child care is important for families. Good schools are important for families. Arts and cultural stuff help. Restaurants and breweries and outdoor recreation opportunities,” Smith said. “Traffic is considerably lighter and commutes are considerably shorter than down south.”
Smith also said he’s going to advocate for energy conservation and efficiency in city buildings and by reaching out to the public. There’s money to be saved, Smith said.
“I think taking action on climate change is not only the morally right thing to do, I think it has opportunities for economic growth and innovation and economic development,” Smith said. “I also think we can do some more visionary stuff.”
Smith said he’s also thinking about how to ease parking problems downtown and ensuring seniors have a good community to live. He’s also a fan of the New Juneau Arts and Culture Center, though he’s careful to say that they’re responsible to the taxpayers first.
“I want a new JACC. The arts are and will be a (economic) driver, and with a better facility, they can attract a better talent,” Smith said. “The goal is to protect fund balances and reserves. It’s the people’s money. We need to be good fiscal stewards for it.”
With his proximity to the state legislature, especially over this tumultuous summer, support from the state government is high on his mind. With shrinking state budgets a distinct possibility, Smith said, the city may have to look at how to make do with less. Smith said he’s also thinking about alternative sources of revenue, such as a sugary drink tax, similar to the ones implemented in a number of other American cities.
“In my mind, we do need to be asking all departments, are they returning on the investment,” Smith said. “We gotta protect those fund balances and reserves.”
When he’s not acting as a campaign manager or a legislative assistant, Smith said he enjoys trail running in Juneau’s many trails and foraging for herbs for cooking. He also couldn’t be pinned down for a specific favorite restaurant, naming Saffron, Bullwinkle’s Pizza, Tracy’s Crab Shack and Breeze In in short order.
When asked what flavor of ice cream he’d identify as, Smith said “Mint chocolate chip. Fresh and got a little crunchy surprises and smooth chocolate finish.”
Candidate Bio (In their own words)
Greg Smith was born in Juneau in 1983. He has a degree in Environmental Sciences from Oregon State University. He currently works as a legislative aid to Rep. Andi Story, D-Juneau.
Question 1: What qualifications and one personal quality will make you an effective member of the Assembly?
My connection to Juneau, my work and professional experience, and my knowledge of city processes and organization will allow me to serve our community well.
I was born and raised here. I’ve been a crew member on a gillnetter, ran a business selling hydroponic basil, own my own consulting business, and worked in the Capitol for six legislative sessions.
I have consulted with local businesses as they applied for, and received, city permits. As a legislative aide, I have engaged deeply with the community and have a good sense of the issues facing us. Collaboration will make me an effective Assembly member: I will work with anyone to find solutions that bring us together, not push us apart.
Question 2: What is the most important community need the Assembly must address?
In my opinion, there are a handful of top priority issues facing our community. However, protecting the economic strength and vitality of Juneau is my top issue.
To do so, the city must provide a favorable business climate to create jobs, and grow and diversify the economy. We must evaluate and prioritize spending so that we are in a strong financial position if — more “when” — additional cuts and economic impacts from the state budget hit our community.
An issue following closely behind the economy would be public safety.
Question 3: What is the most significant Assembly accomplishment in the last year?
Settlement with the cruise industry.
Question 4: How should CBJ respond to the governor’s budget cuts?
It is critical that the Assembly assess the magnitude of possible cuts and plan accordingly. Additionally, we must work hard to maintain fund balances and reserves and closely evaluate spending.
The Assembly should also speak to the local impacts of budget cuts (examples: loss of services, increased taxes, increased class sizes). If the community feels these impacts are too much, the Assembly can voice its concerns to the governor, and work with allies across the state to push back on the cuts.
Question 5: Should the City and Borough of Juneau cap the number of cruise ship passengers? Why or why not? What steps, if any, should CBJ take to mitigate the impacts of cruise ship passengers on Juneau?
I do not have enough information at this time to say if a cap on passengers is what needs to be done. We must assess impacts of tourism and determine how to distribute and mitigate them to maintain a high quality of life for residents, provide a quality experience for visitors, while creating jobs and economic activity.
Impacts of tourism could be reduced by improving transportation and logistics, increasing destinations and tourism opportunities, and by working collaboratively with industry and tour operators.
Question 6: What can the Assembly do to help alleviate the critical shortage of child care options for Juneau families?
The Assembly took action earlier this year to improve child care in Juneau. They added funds to improve child care provider training, established a low-interest loan program for providers, and are evaluating city properties that could be used for child care facilities.
Additionally, we must continue to partner and collaborate with nonprofits, government agencies, and businesses to increase capacity or support families needing child care.
This is an issue that spans our entire community. We must also ensure state and federal money is reaching providers and families. Best Starts, an initiative that provided financial incentives to providers to provide higher quality child care, could be evaluated and considered.
• Contact reporter Michael S. Lockett at 523-2271 or firstname.lastname@example.org.