Mayor Patty Gilbert thanks former mayor Steve Prysunka for his service, October 6, 2022.
(Sage Smiley / KSTK)

Wrangell’s new mayor hit the ground running, presiding over her first assembly meeting earlier this week (October 11). Mayor Patty Gilbert outlined clear goals for the assembly, borough administration, and communication with the public.

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Patty Gilbert is no stranger to the assembly process – she’s served as an elected borough official since 2016. 

But at her first meeting as Mayor of Wrangell (October 11), Gilbert took advantage of her new position to paint a strong vision. 

“I want to endorse two major goals for the assembly, and they’re very simple: infrastructure and economic development,” Gilbert told assembly members. “Let’s have those two goals to begin with, which are very broad, but let’s have that be our driving force for every meeting.”

Gilbert ran for mayor on a similar platform, also advocating for greater communication and transparency between the assembly, borough administration, and the public. At Tuesday’s meeting, she said she’s working with the borough clerk to put more information at the fingertips of the decision-making body. 

“I also asked the borough clerk to open access on Municode for the minutes and the agendas of our commissions and our committees so that we can have a heads up on what Planning and Zoning is doing, for instance, or the Port Commission or our Economic Development Committee,” Gilbert added, “So we can see the whole picture.”

Those records are already public, but Gilbert says she wants to make access easier for elected officials, and the voters who elected them. 

Borough Manager Jeff Good told the assembly the borough is already working toward that goal. The borough’s website has been updated with lists of capital improvement projects in progress, as well as more detailed updates as a part of the borough manager’s reports

“It basically summarizes all of our capital improvement projects that we have, so anyone can go online and take a look at it and kind of get an update as far as all the projects that are being worked on at this time,” Good explained.

Borough manager’s reports started being published on a dedicated webpage in late September, before Gilbert was elected mayor. She’d advocated for the change as an assembly member as well. And Gilbert says she’s heard the easy access to project information is appreciated by residents. 

“I’ve gotten a lot of comments that people are reading it and not realizing that all of this is being accomplished,” Gilbert said. “I got a call just this morning that they discovered a ‘typo.’ And they could not believe that we had a total of $24.75 million worth of capital improvements funded by grants locally. They just thought certainly that was a typo. So that is very good.”

And it’s not a typo

Beyond document accessibility, Gilbert has other goals. She asked her fellow assembly members to reach out more to residents, and to bring more corners of the community into the assembly’s process and planning. That could include building up relationships they already have with healthcare provider SEARHC, the local tribal government (the Wrangell Cooperative Association), local businesses, or the Forest Service. 

And Gilbert also outlined priorities for the borough administration. She tasked the Economic Development Committee in cooperation with the borough manager and local commissions like Planning & Zoning to tackle three specific items, all related to getting borough properties into private ownership.

“The first item is to market the former hospital. The second item is to market the former mill site. And then the third task is to identify, develop and market other borough-owned lands, including entitlement lands,” Gilbert outlined, adding: “That would give us a good head start towards our goals.”

Moving forward, Gilbert says she plans to give updates on her priorities at each meeting. And if she’s absent from a future meeting, assembly members unanimously elected Dave Powell as vice-mayor. He’ll serve as acting mayor if Gilbert is gone. 

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