The City and Borough of Juneau Assembly looks a lot different than it did 13 months ago.
After Tuesday’s election, six of nine members from the 2017-18 Assembly will either no longer hold city office, be on their way out, or, in the case of Assembly member-turned Mayor Beth Weldon, filling a new role in city government.
The newest face is Greg Smith, who is slotted to fill a three-year District 1 Assembly seat to be vacated by Mary Becker. After three terms, Becker could not seek re-election this year.
With the addition of newcomer Smith, who did not return calls seeking comment Wednesday, five of nine Assembly members will be within their first 18 months in office, and the new-look Assembly skews younger.
“It’s really exciting,” said Assembly member Carole Triem, who won an uncontested race Tuesday, in a phone interview.
In the past, Triem has said it’s important to keep a millennial perspective in mind when discussing issues like climate change that will affect future generations. Now she, Smith and Assembly member Alicia Hughes-Skandijs, who is posed to fill a one-year District 1 seat, fill that role.
”I’m sure you could tell from the energy last night, we’re all really happy to be working together, and that includes Wade (Bryson), who is not a Millennial,” Triem said.
Smith, Triem, Bryson, and Hughes-Skandijs all wore celebratory smiles at City Hall Tuesday night as election results came in and seemed pleased at the idea of serving together.
The three incumbents, Triem, Bryson and Hughes-Skandijs, all secured second terms by virtue of races that featured as many openings as candidates, but all re-elected incumbents are still just finishing out their first years in office.
Last year, multi-term Assembly members Jerry Nankervis and Jesse Kiehl left the Assembly for runs at state offices. Mayor Ken Koelsch, who served on the Assembly before winning a 2016 special mayoral election, declined to run for office again. Weldon, who was an Assembly member, stepped down to successfully ran for mayor, and Norton Gregory, another 2017-18 Assembly member also stepped down for the mayoral race.
The fresh faces now make up a 5-4 majority on the Assembly since Michelle Bonnet Hale was also elected in last year’s shakeup. While Assembly members said they all work well together they don’t vote in a bloc.
“Juneau has been lucky. The big things we didn’t want to have happen, partisanship and lines being drawn, didn’t happen,” Bryson said. “Over the last couple of years, the Assembly went from contentious and divisive to getting along better and working more cooperatively than any group I’ve participated in.”
Triem said more experienced members of the Assembly — Weldon, Maria Gladziszewski and Loren Jones — have helped ease the learning curve for for newer members, and she was hard-pressed to name an issue that will specifically be influenced by the Assembly’s new makeup.
While narrow Assembly votes aren’t especially common, occasionally contentious issues result narrow votes.
In the past year, onsite consumption of marijuana produced split votes at the committee and Assembly levels. Some members favored allowing onsite consumption that meets state regulations, which allow for both smoking and edibles. A few favored edibles only, and Becker opposed any onsite consumption.
Ultimately, onsite consumptions of edibles in spaces that meet state-mandated requirements and outdoor smoking at requirement-meeting venues were approved.
Possibly revisiting a controversial pursuit of annexing lands that include a portion of Admiralty Island — an area traditionally associated with Angoon — also recently produced a close vote. However, a 5-3 vote in July stopped the reconsideration and means the matter is moving forward with a public process that will put the matter to the state Legislature before annexation can happen.
While both matters are settled, future close votes will be decided by the Assembly’s newest members.
Triem said she would be hardpressed to name a specific issue, aside from climate change, that she thinks will be specifically impacted by the Assembly’s younger makeup.
“I think a lot of the kind of normal local government issues, it’s probably not going to be prominent that there’s the millennial perspective,” Triem said.