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Bethel City Council candidate profile: Sophie Swope

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Sophie Swope
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Swope is one of the four candidates running for city council.

Sophie Swope was born and raised in Bethel. Now 24, she’s making her first run for a city council seat. Although she hasn't previously been involved in city government, she thinks her candidacy can help represent young voices.

“I want to bring in more of the younger community and just to show that, hey, it's not rocket science to come in and join the conversation,” Swope said. “Getting the younger generation involved is one of the bigger priorities on my end.”

Swope, one of four candidates running for four open city council seats, thinks that beyond new ideas, young people also help bring a digital fluency that could modernize some aspects of city government.

Swope currently is the director of Mother Kuskokwim, a grassroots organization that opposes the planned Donlin Gold mine upriver of Bethel. She’s also worked at a dentist’s office, at the airport, and in HR.

Besides energizing younger residents, Swope plans to push for larger plot sizes for houses in Bethel. Although she recognizes that there’s a lack of affordable housing, she said that she has big ideas for how the city could look, and how that might change people’s experiences living in Bethel.

“I have always dreamed about Bethel having houses that are not immediately next to each other,” Swope said. “So you could have space for a maqii, for a smoke rack and drying rack for your salmon, just so we could practice our livelihood without having dust all over everything.”

Her goal as a city council member is to be available. As a lifelong resident, Swope sees herself as someone connected to the community who knows the problems and challenges Bethel faces.

“Just to be somebody that is easily approachable no matter what the issue is,” Swope said. “To take the time to listen and constructively work with people that have comments or questions or any other concerns.”

The city election is on Oct. 4. Early voting is already underway at Bethel City Hall.

Will McCarthy is a temporary news reporter at KYUK. Previously, he worked as a furniture mover, producer, and freelance journalist. Will's written for the New York Times, National Geographic, and Texas Monthly. He holds a master's degree in journalism from UC Berkeley.