A ballot for the 2021 municipal election. On Wednesday, Will Muldoon entered the race for a seat on the Juneau Board of Public Education. He's joining the field of candidates as a write-in option, eight days after city officials mailed ballots to voters and 13 days before ballots are due back. (Ben Hohenstatt/Juneau Empire)

Second write-in candidate joins school board race

Muldoon cites concern over candidate stances on COVID mitigations and board scope drive candidacy

This article has been updated to reflect that a letter received by the Empire was not part of a coordinated campaign.

Will Muldoon has entered the race for a seat on the Juneau School District Board of Education. In a bid to fill three seats, he is the eighth candidate and the second-write-in candidate to enter the fray.

On Wednesday afternoon, Muldoon’s write-in candidacy was certified—eight days after McEwen’s office mailed ballots to all registered voters in the Borough and 13 days before they are due back.

“I don’t think consultants would advise a write-in campaign,” he joked in a Wednesday morning phone interview. “But, with a large candidate pool, the math is OK there.”

Courtesy photo / Will Muldoon 
Will Muldoon is a newly declared candidate for the Juneau Board of Public Education.

Courtesy photo / Will Muldoon Will Muldoon is a newly declared candidate for the Juneau Board of Public Education.

Muldoon said he’s entering the race based on encouragement from supporters who have asked him to throw his hat into the ring. He said he plans to use targeted advertising and letters to the editor to make his case to voters. The Empire received a letter to the editor in support of Muldoon Wednesday morning. In an email, the writer said they had not been asked to submit the letter.

After seeing the Municipal Candidate Forum sponsored by the League of Women Voters and hosted by the Juneau Empire and KTOO, Muldoon said that he had concerns about some of the other candidates.

He said his specific concerns center around COVID-19 mitigations and how some candidates understand the board’s scope of responsibility.

“I’m sure people are wondering why is this 37-year-old guy running? I’m a concerned citizen. I’m not here to shake things up or to go in with a big agenda. The current board has done a great job, and I want to continue that work,” he said.

[Record review shows legal woes for school board hopefuls]

On the issues

COVID-19 mitigations and school-based health and safety protocols have taken a center stage during the campaign.

Muldoon said he supports the board’s actions and fears losing ground if officials curb mitigation measures now.

Last week, the board approved a new policy requiring weekly COVID-19 testing for unvaccinated staff members and other people paid by the school, including contractors and school board members.

Next month, at the first board meeting after the election, the board will consider a policy that would allow for surveillance testing of unvaccinated students to help cut down on virus transmission.

“I’m concerned about some of the candidate’s takes on COVID-19 mitigations. We’ve done a good job and I don’t want to see the mitigations relaxed. I want us to finish work on COVID,” he said. “We can’t start experimenting with mask options. We need consistency and stability and the only realistic way for that to happen is to continue the mask mandate.”

[Juneau schools add COVID mitigation layers]

Fellow candidates Aaron Spratt and Thomas Buzard have been sharply critical of the school district’s COVID-19 mitigation plans. Wiljordan Sangster has been largely absent from the campaign trail and has not provided his views on this issue specifically. However, in the candidate information he provided the city clerk, he cites the board’s decision to stand by COVID-19 mitigation policy preventing the boy’s basketball team from traveling to the state tournament last spring as his primary reason for running.

Spratt and Buzard both support allowing parents to choose the mitigation measures that apply to their students.

Spratt said that he believes mandatory masking and surveillance testing harm student’s mental health and that current policies are out of proportion to the risk students face from the virus. In a school board meeting earlier this month, Spratt suggested that the swabs used for COVID-19 testing can cause cancer.

Buzard said that the school policies represent tyranny and that school board members are not ‘petty tyrants.”

Fellow write-in candidate Kyle Scholl favors exploring a potential middle ground that requires students to wear masks when they are out of their seats but lets them take them down when seated at their desks.

Candidates Elizabeth Siddon, Amber Frommherz, and Ibn Bailey have all expressed support for the school district’s mitigation policies.

In addition, Muldoon also said that he is concerned that some of the candidates lack a “fluency” in what the school board does.

“We can’t just build a new building. That’s not how it works with the city,” he said. “I want people on the board to understand what the board does.”

Buzard has called for the school to build an industrial arts center with incoming federal infrastructure money.

Experience

Muldoon has run for a set on the school board twice before. He first ran as a teenager about 20 years ago. In 2012, he came in third in a race to fill two seats.

He’s been an active City and Borough of Juneau board member and is currently the chair of the aquatics board. Previously, he served on the Juneau Commission on Aging.

In 2019, he joined the Parks and Recreation Advisory Committee and was part of the group that helped to build the city’s most recent master plan for parks and recreation. He currently holds a seat on a subcommittee that looks at off-road vehicle use.

Muldoon said that his work on the aquatics board and the committee overseeing off-road vehicle use has provided valuable experience dealing with public comments—a skill he says will be invaluable on the school board.

He said that over the last year, he’s looked over 1,500 public comments about issues related to pool construction and a proposal to build an off-road area near Montana Creek.

“Public discourse in school boards is becoming a big thing,” he said. “It’s a big thing I’ve been thinking about. That will be a big part of it and I’m OK with that. With the pool issues and the Montana Creek issues, it’s been a big part of my life and it’s important that people have a board to bounce thoughts off. Boards serve as the liaison between the public and the government.”

In addition to CBJ boards, Muldoon served two terms on the KTOO board and one on the CoastAlaska Board. According to their Facebook page, “CoastAlaska is a public media consortium that shares breaking and feature news, photos and links from Southeast Alaska and beyond.”

“I’ve been around boards,” Muldoon said.

Background

Muldoon moved to Juneau in 1996, when his mother, who was active duty Coast Guard, was stationed here. Muldoon said the family has stayed, and his parents and siblings are still here.

He’s not married and does not have children or pets. However, he said that he has several nieces and nephews enrolled in Juneau Public Schools.

He works for the state of Alaska as a data processor, where he operates the mainframe in the data center.

He enjoys cycling, baking and collecting books. He describes himself as a “data hobbyist” and said he loves to pour over all types of data.

He’s a 2003 graduate of Juneau-Douglas High School: Yadav.at Kalé and briefly attended the University of Southeast Alaska.

In Bocca al Lupo is his favorite dining establishment. He said it’s tough to pick a favorite local trail after his time on committees focused on parks. But, he said he particularly enjoys hiking the back end of Perseverance Trail.

About write-in candidates

According to McEwen, write-in candidates must meet the same qualifications as other candidates, including length of residency and voter registration status. Write-in candidates must submit a letter of intent to the clerk’s office as part of the process of becoming a certified write-in candidate.

However, because the candidate did not complete the necessary paperwork before the filing deadline, the candidate’s name does not appear on the ballot.

Write-in votes are only counted if race results are close, using a threshold established by statute. If the race is not tight enough, write-in ballots are not counted.

Contact reporter Dana Zigmund at dana.zigmund@juneauempire.com or 9027-308-4891.

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