Hey Anchorage, who’s your pick for mayor? Why?

a grid of 12 photos with diverse people
Residents of Anchorage, from Girdwood to Eagle River, discussed local issues with Alaska Public Media reporters on April 25, 2024. (Wesley Early/Alaska Public Media)

Next month, Anchorage voters will decide who will be the city’s next mayor, incumbent Dave Bronson or Suzanne LaFrance.

To get a sense of what residents care about, we spent a day chatting up locals all over town, from Eagle River to Girdwood, about what issues matter most to them. 

Here’s what they had to say:

Santhia Rose, 44 years old from Eagle River

a woman smiles near hanging artwork
Santhia Rose at Jitters coffee shop in Eagle River. (Wesley Early)

Rose is a brand new American citizen who moved from Canada. She has dual-citizenship.

“This is my first time that I could actually vote in America,” she said.

She described herself as a pro-life midwife. 

“If I had to pick a side to which I belong, I would say I’m conservative, but I’m also not very impressed with Bronson,” she said. “I haven’t been impressed with how he’s been able to manage the school district or even, like local issues like roads and stuff like that. But at the same time, I will not vote Democrat.”

Joshua Bell, 30, from Mountain View

a man in glasses smiles
Josh Bell in front of the Red Apple grocery store. (Wesley Early/Alaska Public Media)

Bell was leaving the Red Apple grocery store in Mountain View. He’s a roofer who said he doesn’t vote frequently. He cited examples of when he voted in state and federal elections. 

“When they say you know, ‘make weed legal,’ I voted on that,” he said. “Voted for Obama, you know, stuff like that.” 

He said he’s not sure he’ll vote in the runoff election, but as a part-time DoorDash driver, a big city issue for him is potholes. 

“You know, how long they’ve been on Dowling and the Seward Highway,” he said. “I mean, I understand we’re trying to, you know, catch up to the Lower 48. But we’re only so big, you know? Potholes mess up cars, OK? It’s not accidents, it’s not the police. It’s the potholes.”

Matt Plunkett, 27, from downtown Anchorage

a man smiles with a baby
Matt Plunkett and his daughter Alia at the Spenard Food Truck festival. (Wesley Early/Alaska Public Media)

Plunkett was having lunch at the Spenard Food Truck Carnival with his family, including his infant daughter Alia. He recently moved to Anchorage from North Carolina. He’d previously been stationed in Anchorage during his time in the Army. He’s supporting Suzanne LaFrance for mayor. 

“My grandma endorses her, and I think her policies helping the homeless are good,” he said. “So I’d like to support her.”

If he had the chance to sit down with the two mayoral candidates, he said he’d ask what their long-term plans for addressing homelessness would be. 

Lio Kelekolio, 19, from Muldoon

a man smiles with an ear bud in
Lio Kelekolio at Surf Laundry in Mountain View. (Wesley Early/Alaska Public Media)

Kelekolio was doing his laundry at Surf Laundry in Mountain View. He said he’s not voting in the runoff.

“I don’t really like to get into politics,” he said.  

He cited petty theft as a large issue in his community. He works at a Wal-Mart. 

“There’s a lot of stealing that goes around there,” he said. You just call the police and that’s it. But by the time the cops get there, they’re gone already.”

Theresa Peterson, 61, from Girdwood

a woman in sunglasses and a baseball cap
Theresa Peterson in Girdwood. (Wesley Early/Alaska Public Media)

Housing and homelessness are top of mind for Peterson. She points out a small parking lot in Girdwood with a lot of rough-looking camper vans and trucks in it. She said a lot of locals can’t afford rent, so they live out of their cars. 

“Quite a few of us have,” she said, herself included. “I live in a dry cabin now, so that’s an upgrade.”

Dry, meaning, it doesn’t have regular plumbing and running water. 

Peterson is planning to vote, but she doesn’t know for whom, yet. 

“I’m still on the fence on that,” she said. “I want to see a little bit more of the debates and stuff.”

Nancy Carpenter, 66, from East Anchorage

a woman in sunglasses sits in her car
Nancy Carpenter in the parking lot of the Carrs on Gambell Street. (Wesley Early/Alaska Public Media)

Carpenter was in her car in the parking lot of the Carrs on Gambell Street. She said homelessness was a major issue for her.

“I feel bad for the homeless people, you know, a lot of them don’t have any other choice,” she said. “But it’s our responsibility as the citizens of the city to take care and do the best we can to help them,” she said. “And it’s not happening. We’ve got liberals on one side, and we’ve got conservatives on the other side, and they need to come to an agreement and quit acting like, you know, fifth graders.” 

She said she supports building the large homeless shelter in East Anchorage that Bronson put forward, and she’s supporting him for reelection, despite some of his controversies.

“Did he pick some cronies? Yeah,” she said. “Did he make mistakes? Yeah. But you know what? … All of the other people have made mistakes, too. So, you know, I just think that he’s just got our best interests at heart. And LaFrance has been there for way too long, in my opinion, you know? And she’s just a politician. I saw the debate on TV, and that’s when I made up my mind. I mean, she was just like, ‘I’ll be your champion of the city, and I’ll do this,’ and she never answered any questions with solid information, in my opinion.”

Dominic Wheeler, 43, from South Anchorage

a man in a baseball cap smirks
Dominic Wheeler in front of Bombay Deluxe. (Wesley Early/Alaska Public Media)

Wheeler was outside the Valhalla Central Market in West Anchorage, painting the walls of the Bombay Deluxe restaurant. He said he’s not planning on voting in the runoff election, but he thinks homelessness is a major city issue.

“As much as they spend on, say one luxurious bathroom, they could spend on one shelter instead of what we got going on now,” he said. “They opted to use the old trash dump instead of making a homeless facility.”

Josh Cuerdo, 32, from East Anchorage

a man in glasses near a snow pile
Josh Cuerdo at the Spenard Food Truck Festival. (Wesley Early/Alaska Public Media)

Cuerdo was eating at the Spenard Food Truck Carnival. He plans on voting in the mayoral runoff election, but he’s undecided.

“I have a family and have multiple full-time jobs,” he said. “And it’s hard for me to sit down and actually do what’s right for my family and for my neighborhood, at least.”

He thinks homelessness is a major issue in Anchorage, and he’d ask LaFrance and Bronson about programs that are lifting people out of homelessness and into employment. 

“What are we doing to actually change some of the roots of this problem? Counseling, you know, job opportunities,” he said. “I mean, you can go to any single business here, both in the technical, the blue collar, whatever, and they’re all shorthanded on people. So what are we doing about that? What are we doing to drive people to these programs?”

Alex Levesque, 31, from Girdwood 

a man with a beard and long hair outdoors
Alex Levesque in Girdwood. (Wesley Early/Alaska Public Media)

Levesque said he’s lived in Alaska for about three years, mostly in Girdwood, where he works at a restaurant year-round. When he’s not working, he said, he likes to spend his time in nature. He doesn’t intend to vote.

“Well, I mean, I haven’t been here long enough to feel like I have that much of an impact on elections, or I don’t keep up with them, honestly,” he said. “So I don’t know about like, who’s going to be mayor of anything. I couldn’t tell you the mayor of Alaska right now, or like, the governor. So I’m not up to date on any of the politics here.”

He said he does have concerns about homelessness, particularly in the winter. 

“What would they do in Anchorage, overall with the homeless population?” Levesque said. “How are people going through the winter like that? And there are people that are living out in boxes throughout the entire winter. Like, how would they deal with that?”

Otherwise, he said he’s a little wary about Alyeska Resort’s outsized influence in town, but generally likes how Girdwood is run. 

“Most of the people that I’ve met locally here that have stayed is because they came here because of resort, and then they came because they love the town. So Girdwood is just a great place, honestly.”

Natasha Leal, 33, from West Anchorage

a woman smiles near food trucks
Natasha Leal at the Spenard Food Truck Festival. (Wesley Early/Alaska Public Media)

Leal was eating lunch at the Spenard Food Truck Festival. She has a son who attends the nearby West Anchorage High School, and said a major concern of hers is crime.

“Crime in neighborhoods with schools,” she said. “I get so many notifications from, like, my son’s school, if there’s any, like school threats, or if there’s parts of neighborhoods that are like locked down.”

She said she plans on voting, likely by mail, but hasn’t decided who she’s picking for mayor. 

Yulia Boehmer, 38, from South Anchorage 

a woman sits near an ice rink
Yulia Boehmer at the Dimond Center food court. (Wesley Early/Alaska Public Media)

Boehmer was at the food court at the Dimond Mall, next to the ice rink, with her 6-year-old and 6-month-old daughters. She said keeping them safe was important to her and she plans to vote for Dave Bronson. (English isn’t her first language.)

“Because I like what he does and I like how he supports small businesses and community,” she said. “I saw this many times. And I really like what he does and protect from doing from us. And just, I think it’s really good things, what he does. I wish he gonna have more options for and more power for doing it.”

Savonna Rygh, 18, from Girdwood

a woman smiles in a library
Savonna Rygh at the Girdwood library. (Wesley Early/Alaska Public Media)

Savonna Rygh was working on economics homework at the library in Girdwood. She just recently turned 18 and registered to vote. And she knows who’s getting her first vote – or at least who’s not getting it. 

“Not Bronson,” she said. “Cause, I don’t know, me and my family are not the biggest fans.”

She may not be around for the next local election. 

“I just think there’s a housing crisis in Girdwood that I don’t enjoy,” she said. “I think it’s hard for our community, just because, like, lots of people are coming down and just buying houses to stay the weekend and it’s not, like, helping our community grow. Which I don’t appreciate.”

After high school, she said she wants to go to college, become a nurse, then move out of the country.

Jeremy Hsieh covers Anchorage with an emphasis on housing, homelessness, infrastructure and development. Reach him at jhsieh@alaskapublic.org or 907-550-8428. Read more about Jeremy here.

Wesley Early covers Anchorage life and city politics for Alaska Public Media. Reach him at wearly@alaskapublic.org and follow him on X at @wesley_early. Read more about Wesley here.

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