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Wrangell’s municipal election will take place on October 5. There are three open seats on Wrangell’s Port Commission, all of which are uncontested. John Martin and Chris Buness are both running for three-year terms on the port commission, and Frank Roppel is running for a one-year term. Listen to or read KSTK’s conversation with the candidates below.
The transcript and audio have been lightly edited for clarity and flow.
Sage Smiley (KSTK): All right, thank you all so much for taking the time to talk with me today. First things first, would you maybe start out John [Martin] and introduce yourself and say, why you’re running for port commission?
John Martin: Yes, I’m John Martin and have been around this area for a few years, in fact all my life, and have served on various boards throughout the community, and this just happens to be the latest one. So I think this is the second third term or whatever on the port commission. Why am I running? I think it’s important, we all do our own, share of our skills with the community, and help things grow, and be active. And I just like being around the boats and the harbor and everything that’s going on there. And I get a front row seat in the whole operation, and that’s fun.
KSTK: How about you, Frank?
Frank Roppel: Well, I’ve got time, and I have experience in the marine business, docks here, and I’ve built docks all over. And I’m very hopeful that I can make some contribution, perhaps a little bit to the economic development, I’m very concerned about the economic development, what’s going on in Wrangell, maybe we can use the port commission somehow to perhaps attract some tourists, boats or pleasure boats. We have great facilities here, great to repair facilities. We’ve got very, very good docks and great staff. And I think there’s some opportunities, and if I can help, why, that’s what I intend to do.
KSTK: How about you, Chris?
Chris Buness: I’ve worked with the Convention and Visitors Bureau and the Southeast Alaska Solid Waste Authority, or SISWA, for a number of years, and I’m going to continue with the CVB. But I decided it was time to transition my focus away from solid waste, which I’m still passionate about, but also curious and interested in what the ports and harbors can provide. I have a float house that I’ve been involved with for a number of years and as both a personal place to live and a business. And as a result, I get to interact with folks down there on the docks. And I think like Frank, it’s a great economic opportunity for Wrangell, and I’d like to see the harbors utilized, and get them sort of to full capacity. We’re lucky to have enough space now. And yet, it’d be nice to fill even more of those spaces for folks that are both local and from out of town.
KSTK: Definitely. So you all have experience either on the port commission specifically or with other boards in the community. So I’m wondering if there are any specific issues that you’re either hoping to continue working on or continue considering if you’ve already been on the port commission, or if there are issues — specific ones, and you’ve all mentioned some already — but that prompted you to kind of want to in your case, Chris, join into the port commission, but then Frank and john to to keep serving on this commission. And we’ll start with Frank this time.
Frank Roppel: Looking at the beautiful harbors that we have, it should be in my mind, and could be, an even stronger attraction to out-of-this-area pleasurable visitors. We have great fuel docks here. We’ve got great grocery stores, we’ve got good water, there’s a lot of shoreside attractions. And it’s a good place, if you want to hang out here and go visit LeConte or up the river or maybe Anan, Wrangell is a good place to have those visitors come in and use the facilities that we have, and would add in my mind some impact to the local economy. And if we can do that, great. And as I said before, we have a great staff. So we have all the assets, if we need to see if there’s some way to promote it a little bit better.
KSTK: Is that something that the port commission has been working on previously?
Frank Roppel: Well they’re working on all of the aspects of the port facilities: the condition, renewals and different things like that. But in terms of reaching out, I don’t think that we’ve done that. And there are perhaps some ways to do it. But it takes the port commission working with the staff and the city to get it done. If one of those things we can do is beat on the drums and make some improvement, that would be great.
KSTK: Definitely. How about you Chris? What prompted what issues are things that prompted you to kind of look at the port commission specifically?
Chris Buness: I haven’t — fortunately, I haven’t seen problems, or heard of problems, and yet there’s always ways to improve, I think, and hearing from the people, as a person who serves on a municipal commission, or any, you know, sort of bureau like the CVB — Part of our job is to listen and find out what those are and how we can improve. So, yeah, it’s obviously a big learning curve for me to sort of figure out: what does the port commission do on a weekly, monthly, annual basis. And working with folks like John and Frank, who already have some experience, I think will be super educational from my standpoint, but also being another person out there with the ears and the eyes to hear about what other people see and what we need to do.
KSTK: Definitely. How about you, John? Are there specific issues that make you want to continue serving on the port commission?
John Martin: Yes, we have a good relationship with Meyers Chuck and we have some obligations as part of our port commission’s duties. And we’re getting things started down there. And I’d like to see that continue, we have to upgrade their float, ramps, and those sorts of things. We’re already sending down a section of float for the airplane landing. So we got to keep moving on that. Again, like Frank says, we’ve got some beautiful facilities here. But the Inner Harbor and Reliance need some more serious work on what’s happening there. And hopefully, we — it appears that the nation wants to spend some money on infrastructure, and that’s a good one for us. If we could step in and get those updated as a whole, we’d be in good shape. And then there’s always that need to set aside funds for future repairs and construction replacement of facilities, we want to be building on that account too.
KSTK: Invest in the community. Definitely. This is maybe a little bit broad of a question. And you might not have an answer, because arguably everything is important. But what do you think the most important function of the port commission is? We’ll start with Chris.
Chris Buness: Earlier this year, I was reading a little bit more specifically about the ordinances that apply to the harbors and ports. And to paraphrase, one of the missions is to utilize the facilities for anything that’s appropriate, legal, and, you know, what makes sense in terms of our ports and harbors. And so, thinking about how we can sort of like Frank says we can crank it up. It’s a wonderful resource. I spoke to Steve, the harbormaster, about sort of next big steps. And he mentioned like, John did the Inner Harbor as the next sort of redo, as we’ve been able to do with Heritage and, and Shoemaker. It’s for me to learn and figure out and think about: ‘What are the priorities based on what the staff see, and what we all hear about as commissioners?’
KSTK: How about you, John?
John Martin: I think one of the things we need to be is the eyes and ears of the community, and be listening closely to what’s happening and what they perceive our needs are and put them in motion and meet those needs. We have a lot of relationships with the Native community, and other aspects that help us put things together and get them working for Wrangell. We need economic connections and geographical connections, and even our social needs in some aspects. So I think just listening and acting on the information we’re hearing to make the best decisions for the community and harbor users.
KSTK: Pretty important function. How about you, Frank?
Frank Roppel: As I said before, I think we have a great staff, and they do a great job at operations. My view is that there’s no way that the board and none of them try to tell the harbor masters how to put the planks down on the wood. But, we need to look at — the board not only has some overview of what’s going on, but to look around for other opportunities to use our facilities to help the community.
KSTK: To wrap things up. If there’s anything else you’d want to say or — this is a question maybe a little better geared towards people in a seat that has a delineated competitor, which there may be write-ins for the port commission. But my last question is to ask you what you might say to someone to explain why they should vote for you for this commission. And since these positions are at least in terms of actual candidates on the list, uncontested, I’d expand that to just anything else you’d want to say about the port commission, its importance or your role. If you’re to be elected as a port commissioner or re-elected as a port commissioner. We’ll start with John this time.
John Martin: I think the long-term relationship with the harbor and all its activities. My stepfather one time was the harbormaster in Wrangell 50 years ago or whatever, and all those things have changed. There’s a lot of things that have remained the same in these operations. I live here. And it’s important that we give our time and efforts and our skills. And would like to continue that.
KSTK: Thank you very much. How about you, Chris?
Chris Buness: I think just having as one sometimes as new blood, in a group of folks can be advantageous. I also believe, pretty passionately, that we can often learn from other places, and bring that knowledge to our table and not reinvent the wheel. And yeah, I come from more of a self-propelled boating background. I’m not a fisherman. I don’t drive motor powered boats. But it’s just a new and interesting thing for me. And hopefully, I can bring a little bit of a new perspective and yet rely heavily on the folks like John and Frank and others who have been involved for many years to continue doing the things we do well, and maybe step back and say, ‘Why do we do it that way?’
KSTK: Totally? Thank you very much, Chris. How about you, Frank?
Frank Roppel: Well, I’m an old guy. And I’ve been around a long time. And I have been involved in dock-building projects in Klawock, Hobart Bay, Long Island, and maintaining and building docks here in Wrangell at the old City Dock and the sawmill dock, Sitka Pulp Mill dock, Ketchikan Spruce Mill dock, and I have a lot of experience. And I think that experience can be an asset to our staff. And I have found that to be an asset to the staff. So I’m very, very happy to be able to share that with the community. And if that would help, it would be great.
KSTK: Definitely. Thank you all very much for your time this morning. I really appreciate you taking the time to talk to me about the port commission.
Chris Buness: Thank you, Sage.
KSTK: Thank you. Hope you have a great rest of your day.
Get in touch with KSTK at email@example.com or (907) 874-2345.