In the crowded Assembly chambers at City Hall on Tuesday night, mayoral candidate Beth Weldon had the largest and loudest cheering section.
By the end of the night, she also had the happiest cheering section — and the title of Juneau’s mayor.
“I did not want to disappoint my supporting crowd,” Weldon said. “They’ve been awesome.”
There was quite a bit of cheering as the results came in over a 45-minute span, as Weldon and runner-up Saralyn Tabachnick exchanged precinct victories. Tabachnick, the executive director of Aiding Women in Abuse and Rape Emergencies (AWARE), finished with 2,745 votes to Weldon’s 3,431 in the unofficial tally and even led midway through the night.
As the final results came in, Tabachnick turned toward Weldon and smiled. Tabachnick said afterward that it was a cordial campaign and she was happy with how it went.
Former City and Borough Assembly member Norton Gregory finished third with 687 votes, and Cody Shoemaker finished with 138 votes.
Weldon, a fourth-generation Douglas resident, comes from a commercial fishing background. She worked for CCFR for 21 years, working her way up to being a division chief (today, that position is known as assistant chief). She has remained busy since her retirement in 2012, as she and her husband Greg own Glacier Auto Parts.
Weldon, 53, was partway through her term on the Assembly when she resigned to run for mayor. Gregory also resigned his seat, which was required by the city’s charter.
Tabachnick, a political newcomer, said she was humbled and overwhelmed with the support she received during this campaign.
“I had people who never registered or voted before, register,” Tabachnick said. “People who never had a yard sign before said, ‘I’d like a yard sign.’ People who said they’ve never donated to a campaign before made a donation.”
Results won’t be officially certified until next Tuesday, but once that happens, Weldon will become mayor. Her first Assembly meeting in her new seat takes place Monday, Oct. 15.
Weldon declared to run after Mayor Ken Koelsch announced this summer that he would not run for re-election. Weldon will be taking his seat, but not before requesting some wisdom from him.
“I feel fairly well prepared because I’m coming from the Assembly,” Weldon said, “but I’ll be talking with Mayor Koelsch and past mayor (Merrill) Sanford and past mayor (Bruce) Botelho and get some tips before I start.”
Crowded race leads to tight finish
The mayoral race wasn’t the only nail-biter Tuesday. The five-way race for two District 2 seats brought the drama as well, particularly for the second-place spot where the early voting totals could make a difference.
Michelle Bonnet Hale earned the most votes of the five, earning 3,381 votes — 1,100 more votes than runner-up Wade Bryson. As a result, Hale — formerly the director of the Department of Environmental Conservation’s Division of Water — gets a full three-year term on the Assembly.
“I am eager to jump in and start serving Juneau, and the beauty of that three-year term is I don’t have to worry about interrupting it in a year to run again,” Hale said. “I can just jump in and start serving Juneau.”
In the unofficial tally, Bryson earned 2,274, which was 122 votes ahead of Garrett Schoenberger for the second seat.
There are still about 2,500 votes to be counted, between early votes, absentee votes and questioned ballots (mostly ballots that were cast by registered voters, but at precincts where they weren’t registered), City Clerk Beth McEwen said. The remaining ballots are to be tallied by Friday, and the election results will be finalized next Tuesday.
If the results stand in District 2, Wade Bryson, will receive the one-year term, which is the remainder of Weldon’s term on the Assembly. Bryson showed up at City Hall about halfway through the results, when he was trailing Schoenberger by about 150 votes.
Bryson, who owns the Subway restaurants in town and hosts the KINY radio show Problem Corner, said he knew Schoenberger would be a tough opponent. He knew a couple of his stronger precincts still hadn’t reported, though.
Then they came in.
The final three precincts were two Mendenhall Valley areas and Lemon Creek, and Bryson led all District 2 candidates in votes and surged ahead.
“I’m just ecstatic,” Bryson said. “I’ve been waiting for this for 10 years, so I’m quite pleased.”
Schoenberger remained positive after the results came in. Schoenberger, a managing partner in real estate firm Alaska Legacy Partners, said he’s about to leave for his honeymoon. He said he’ll make sure to give McEwen his cellphone number so she can keep him posted.
“All the candidates worked hard, but I know Wade worked really hard and I respect that,” Schoenberger said. “It’s not over. I think there are about 2,000 early and absentee votes still, and I feel good about those.”
Emil Mackey finished fourth and Don Habeger finished fifth in the unofficial results for District 2.
Triem’s work makes her dream work
With her win in the Areawide race over Tom Williams, Carole Triem, 30, becomes the youngest member of a now female-majority Assembly. She’ll serve a two-year term representing the entire CBJ.
It’s her first time holding public office.
“I followed politics and policy really closely and feel really strongly about it,” she said. “So I figured that, if I feel really strongly about it, I should put my money where my mouth is.”
An economic advisor for the Department of Commerce, Community and Economic Development, Triem is one of two millennials running for Assembly this year, Schoenberger being the other.
Williams is the chief financial officer at Ward Air who also runs a vacation rental with his wife. His campaign was focused on fiscal conservatism.
He wasn’t present at City Hall on Tuesday but was spending time with family.
“I think financial responsibility at the city level was what I was offering,” Williams said.
Jones wins uncontested
Retired state of Alaska employee Loren Jones will fill the District 1 seat after winning his election unopposed. He said he’s excited to have fresh blood on the Assembly with the inclusion of Triem, Hale and whoever ultimately wins the tightly-contested second seat in Assembly District 2.
He’ll serve a final term of three years and hopes to work early on better resolutions for the Best Starts initiative and the Juneau Arts and Culture Center.
“It’s nice to see the turnover. It’s nice that we’re going to have five women on the Assembly. … I think all in all the election turned out about as good as I hoped,” Jones said.
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