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Voters and candidates in Ketchikan speak out as residents head to the polls

Ketchikan Gateway Borough Mayor Rodney Dial stands at the intersection of Tongass and Jefferson on Local Election Day, Oct. 4, 2022. (Eric Stone/KRBD)

Polling stations are open for a few more hours in Ketchikan, Saxman and Prince of Wales Island communities. The KRBD walked around the city to talk to voters and candidates on the day of the municipal elections.

It’s a Ketchikan tradition: waving signs on a busy street corner reminding voters to go to the polls. Shortly before noon Tuesday, Borough Mayor Rodney Dial stood with a campaign sign and an American flag.

“Just get out and vote – it doesn’t matter who you vote for, just get out and vote,” he said. “Our community is worth it.”

Across the street is Dial’s challenger, outgoing school district business manager Katie Parrott.

“We had a good group this morning, and we had a lot of waves, a lot of honking – for both teams – and it was wonderful,” she said.

Austin Otos and Tom Heutte are campaigning on Local Election Day, October 4, 2022. (Eric Stone/KRBD)

She stood alongside Austin Otos, who is seeking a second term in the Ketchikan Borough Assembly, and school board candidate Tom Heutte. He was appointed to the board to fill vacancies in the past, but is seeking his first election victory.

“Austin (Otos) and Katie (Parrott) and I are all supporting each other – and (Michael) Iann (Martin) too,” Heutte said. “We all stick together and have fun.”

Heutte is a member of KRBD’s board of directors, but the board is not involved in the newsroom.

LEARN MORE: KRBD Voter’s Guide to the October 4, 2022 Ketchikan Election

Inside the Plaza Mall, poll worker Marily Yaw says turnout was roughly on par with municipal elections in previous years – that is, not great .

“I’m surprised – I thought it would be that there would be more people,” she said. “It’s been pretty stable, but not the way it should be.”

Katie Parrott holds a campaign banner alongside her mother-in-law as voters head to the polls. (Eric Stone/KRBD)

Proposition 2 was a priority for many voters who voted in Ketchikan. The ballot initiative to cut borough funding for the Ketchikan Public Library was tabled after a group of parents raised concerns about library books and programs addressing gender and sexuality. It was announced days after the library held a story hour with a drag queen during Pride Month.

MORE COVERAGE: Author of Ketchikan Proposition 2 downplays impacts of library funding measure in KRBD forum

Alan Falzarano spoke shortly after casting his vote at Fire Station 8 in North Tongass. He said he voted for Dial and voted in favor of the library funding measure.

“I don’t think we should teach our kids about transsexualism until they’re at least eighth grade,” he said. “Not in our fucking library, man.”

He said he thinks residents outside the city limits should have more control over the public library.

It was also on the mind of voter Karla Reinhardt.

“I voted to change the way the library is funded,” she said. “I voted yes for that one, so maybe people will listen a little better to what a percentage of the population here is feeling instead of being so condescending.”

The drag queen story hour was a hit among children who attended – the librarians had to add two more screenings to keep up with demand. But it was a political lightning rod. Members of the Ketchikan City Council, which has the final say on the library’s budget and programming, twice tried unsuccessfully to cancel story time.

If passed, the source of about 40% of the library’s annual funding will disappear from 2024. If the city or borough does not replace the funding, city officials say they would be forced to cut nearly all programs, lay off half the staff, and people outside the city limits of Ketchikan and Saxman would not be eligible for a library card.

Malcolm Doiron was among those who voted against Proposition 2.

“I hope there are enough smart people around here not to clog up the library,” he says. “I’ve been using it for 60 years. I would like to continue using it.

Bob Soptei voted at a Ward Cove fire station. He says his vote against Proposition 2 is a statement about what he wants Ketchikan to be.

“The community is a pretty inclusive community, and I felt voting against (the library) would just make a statement that we’re not inclusive,” he said. “I just think it’s important because since we have a variety of different people, we have to accept everyone.”

Polling stations are open until 8 p.m. KRBD will provide on-air election updates as returns come in.