Alicia Hughes-Skandijs is running for re-election in District 1 against newcomer Greg Smith after serving a term in the seat already.
There are two seats available; the candidate with the most votes received will hold the seat for three years; the runner-up will only serve a one-year term.
Born in New York and raised in West Virginia, Hughes-Skandijs has lived in Juneau for 15 years. She graduated from the University of Alaska Southeast with a degree in mathematics, and now works for the State of Alaska for the Department of Health and Social Services.
“I love our community and I’ve had so many opportunities,” Hughes-Skandijs said. “I think it’s the best place and I want it to stay the best place. I want to be part of the decision-making process when we’re making hard decisions.”
Hughes-Skandijs’ focus as she runs is looking forward to the future by making good decisions that prepare Juneau for climate and economic changes. She’s also looking to put in place structures and mechanisms to allow for demographic change in Juneau.
“I’ve gone from thinking five years in the future to more like 40,” Hughes-Skandijs said. “It’s a big deal to make that shift in thinking.”
Hughes-Skandijs believes developing child care options is a good way of attracting more professionals to Juneau. Child care, she says, will attract people if they know they can afford to raise a family here.
Hughes-Skandijs also wants to make Capital Transit more accessible and more widely used by Juneauites. She’s also an advocate of looking at further development of Douglas Island. Hughes-Skandijs also indicated that she’ll be voting for funding for the New Juneau Arts and Culture Center, which is on the ballot this year; she was involved with Perseverance Theatre in Douglas when she was younger.
“I think it should go to the voters,” Hughes-Skandijs said, talking about the New JACC. “For a town this size, we have a lot of interesting opportunities.”
Hughes-Skandijs also advocates supporting economic development where Juneau can, but not getting too involved, saying that some things aren’t the city’s job.
“I think the city’s got to make sure it’s not taking any steps that’s suppressing the local economy,” Hughes-Skandijs said. “If you’ve got a free market, I’m not trying to inject the city where it doesn’t need to be.”
When she’s not working hard for the state or for the city of Juneau, Hughes-Skandijs says she enjoys hiking, camping, and the city’s fledgling stand-up comedy scene. She says that her favorite restaurant in the city is likely Saffron.
All candidates were asked what flavor of ice cream they most closely identified with as a part of the interview process. Hughes-Skandijs gave what may be the most interesting answer: “Chocolate with cayenne pepper.”
Candidate Bio (In their own words)
Alicia Hughes-Skandijs was born in New York, New York in 1985. She graduated from the University of Alaska Southeast in 2010 with a degree in Mathematics. She is currently a Grants Administrator with the state Department of Health and Social Services. She is currently a member of the Assembly.
Question 1: What qualifications and one personal quality will make you an effective member of the Assembly?
My experience as an active member of my union first led me to consider public service. I greatly enjoyed attending the state convention and working as a regional representative on the state contract negotiation team and have found this beneficial in my Assembly work.
It was through the union that I saw first-hand the value of many individuals working together for the mutual benefit of the collective whole. I consider one of my greatest strengths to be my ability to communicate productively with others even when we disagree on the topic and to find compromise whenever possible.
Question 2: What is the most important community need the Assembly must address?
The opioid abuse crisis is reaching epidemic proportions in our community and is a driving factor in public safety and homelessness concerns, both of which are high priorities in their own right.
I believe treatment and use reduction will have a positive impact on our community’s safety and health and, especially with social services’ state funding in jeopardy, it’s important that we tackle this problem as a city.
It’s easy to see substance abusers as dangerous sources of petty crime and property damage, and question why anyone would start using, yet many if not most of us know someone directly impacted by opioid addiction.
Admitting that our friends, family and neighbors are vulnerable is key to implementing best practices, united.
Question 3: What is the most significant Assembly accomplishment in the last year?
I’m most proud of the Assembly for taking steps toward addressing a significant unmet need in senior assisted living, by purchasing land, and passing a tax abatement ordinance targeted at removing the obstacles that have kept an assisted living facility from materializing.
It’s significant because this is an unmet need in the community currently and one that is only going to grow as 20% of our population is forecast to be 65-plus by 2032.
Whether it’s climate change or population increase, I believe it’s crucial that our decision making is forward thinking and anticipates the challenges that we are set to face as well as our current challenges. As a millennial, it’s important to me that we’re planning ahead.
Question 4: How should CBJ respond to the governor’s budget cuts?
In responding, CBJ will need to demonstrate the kind of responsibility that was sorely lacking in the governor’s cuts.
We’ll be well served by using all the tools at our disposal (cuts, increases, savings) to smooth out the immediate effects on residents locally.
We are fortunate to be in a relatively good position financially thanks to the frugality and foresight of previous Assemblies, and it’s of the utmost importance that we create a budget that is sustainable as we enter an era of reduced support from the state, and that we don’t make changes so quickly as to further harm our local economy.
We must also minimize the loss of services wherever we can.
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 understand the motivation of community members who have raised this possibility. Tourism is a renewable resource and a vital component of our economy, and generates revenue that on one hand supports our quality of life, and on the other has the ability to ruin it. Our current infrastructure limits the number of ships in a day, and I’m in no hurry to change that. I support the use of non-commercial zones and believe revising our outdated waterfront plan would lead to better management of the tourists we already have.
Question 6: What can the Assembly do to help alleviate the critical shortage of child care options for Juneau families?
I think the recommendations made by the Assembly Childcare Committee provide an excellent starting point. Identifying potential city-owned sites will provide more locations for care but will also help ensure a distribution that doesn’t place any single neighborhood or demographic at a disadvantage.
Partnering with private care providers with loans to help get more businesses off the ground will benefit families in need of child care, but will also help community members become business owners. We can relieve the cost burden and wait lists for openings and boost the local economy at the same time.
The threatened state cuts to early learning programs were reversed, but I think expanding local options can minimize the impact of future state funding loss.
• Contact reporter Michael S. Lockett at 523-2271 or firstname.lastname@example.org.