After months of campaigning, weeks of questionnaires, forums and debates, the four candidates for Fairbanks Mayor can finally see the light at the end of the tunnel. On Tuesday, Fairbanks residents will declare either Kathryn Dodge, Lakesha Jordan, Mayor Jim Matherly or Frank Turney the winner. It’s unclear who will succeed, but what is certain is that the winner has a lot of work to do.
Fairbanks’ next mayor will have a lot on their plate, regardless of who wins. The city is struggling with a budget too thin to maintain city services at their current levels without additional revenues. City staffers predict that, without a change, the city will be in the red by the third quarter of 2021.
More immediately, Fairbanks’ next mayor will need to submit a balanced budget to the City Council by early December.
Several candidates for both City Council and for mayor promised to reintroduce an equal rights ordinance similar to Ordinance 6093. The ordinance was vetoed by Matherly in February, a controversial decision that has been discussed at length during the campaign season. It is likely the next mayor will face a similar choice during their term.
The Fairbanks Daily News-Miner sent each candidate nine questions to answer, including budget concerns, LGBTQ rights and consolidation. Additionally, throughout the past week, the Daily News-Miner has published a profile on each candidate, starting Wednesday with Dodge and ending Saturday with Turney.
Originally from California, Dodge has lived in Fairbanks for about 25 years. She said she is “hooked on public policy” and has worked in economic development and academia for much of her career. Dodge previously served on the Borough Assembly for two terms. In 2018, she also ran for the Alaska House of Representatives, but lost by one vote. Dodge has raised more funds than any other candidate, out-fundraising all other candidates for public office in Fairbanks North Star Borough by double. She is a member of the Downtown Rotary Club, serves on the Fairbanks Neighborhood Housing Board and on UAF’s School of Management Business Advisory Council.
Jordan is originally from Harlem, New York. She came to Fairbanks in 2002. Jordan said she seeks to empower Fairbanks. She is an entrepreneur, owner of Empower Empire Empowerment Firm. She has worked both formally and informally in the mental and behavioral health fields for years in Fairbanks. She is on the board for ThrivAlaska, serving as community president on the Finance Committee. Jordan has said she likes to speak with people directly, rather than through organizations, believing she can better reach those who would rather not interact with more formal organizations. She is the author of a self-published book titled “At War with Thyself,” and mother to five children.
Incumbent Matherly was born and raised in Fairbanks. He is seeking his second term as mayor. In addition to serving as mayor, Matherly is a local DJ and worked many years in banking, insurance and radio. His time in radio, and working as a DJ and announcer on the Riverboat Discovery helped to hone his public speaking skills. He previously served two terms on Fairbanks City Council. Matherly sits on several boards as part of his mayoral duties. Matherly is the father to six children, several of whom attend Fairbanks schools. He said he feels that in his time in office he has helped engage more of the community in the local political process.
A resident of Fairbanks for the past 36 years, Turney calls himself a “conscience awareness candidate.” He does not expect to win and has even stated that he would find it acceptable to abolish city government altogether. Instead, Turney uses the act of campaigning to bring attention to the issues he most cares about, some of which include: prisoner’s rights, jury nullification, the trial of Schaeffer Cox, public restrooms downtown and eliminating the requirement for residents to use the city’s garbage service. Turney is active in the Fairbanks politics and is frequently seen contributing to the discussion at public meetings. He is on the Clay Street Cemetery Commission.
Contact Cheryl Upshaw at 469-7572 or find her on Twitter @FDNMcity.