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Open seats announced during Bethel City Council meeting

Last week, Bethel City Clerk Lori Strickler was awarded Municipal Employee of the Year by Alaska Municipal League.
Greg Kim
Bethel City Clerk Lori Strickler

During the Bethel City Council meeting held on July 11, it was announced that four open seats would be available for eligible Bethel residents to serve. Reporter Francisco Martinezcuello spoke with the Bethel City Clerk, Lori Strickler, at Bethel City Hall to get the details.

This conversation has been edited for clarity.

Martínezcuello: During [the July 11] city council meeting, you talked about city council positions that will be opening. How many positions are opening and when will they be available?

Strickler: So there are four two-year terms available for the next seating of city council members. The term will begin the first part of October after the election is certified by the canvass board and the council. Declaration of candidacies would be required for anybody interested in running for city council, and they open in August.

Martínezcuello: What are the requirements to be eligible for city council?

Strickler: Anyone interested in running for city council has to be a registered voter with the state of Alaska. They need to be a resident of Bethel for one year and have proof of that residency and must be, of course, 18 years of age or older, of course, to be a voter. And that's it. Have some interest in the position.

Martínezcuello: How can community members apply?

Strickler: The Declaration of Candidacy packets can't be released legally until July 31. So they will be available online. And also printed packets will be available at the city clerk's office if people don't have access to a printer. The opening period for candidacy filing is Aug. 7. So you'll have a few weeks or about a week to fill out your Declaration of Candidacy packet. We do require paper submissions of those candidacy packets because we need an original signature on the application. So the filing period will be between Aug. 7 and Aug. 21 at noon. We'll have that Aug. 21 at noon, which is a Monday, will be our deadline for candidates and I have had people submit Declarations of Candidacy after 12 o'clock, like 12:05 p.m. I cannot put their names on the ballot. So it's got to be within that window. In addition to the city's Declaration of Candidacy packets, there are state Alaska public offices, commission requirements, and more information for that is available on the state's website. But we can also assist any interested candidate that needs help with that. We can assist them through that paperwork as well.

Martínezcuello: And what type of commitment is required for other city council members?

Strickler: Yeah, that's a really good question. And I think that that really can vary by year and interest in the council member. We have two regular city council meetings every month, normally. And there's also a committee meeting that each of the council members would sit on. Our council meetings have been running pretty quickly lately. We're typically out of our council meetings by 9:30 p.m., maybe 10 o'clock, and they begin at 6:30 p.m. every second and fourth Tuesday. There's also, like I said, the committee meetings, which last about two hours for each. And in addition to that, there's packet review and emails that council members will be receiving from staff and community members. So the time commitment can really vary on how engaged an individual wants to be with their municipal government. I think that if you're doing a good job, then you're going to be meeting with staff regularly, you're going to be keeping up with your emails regularly, and being really engaged and involved. Not just at the council meetings, but outside. And that includes having conversations with the residents that might approach you about municipal issues.

Martínezcuello: Where can community members go to get more information?

Strickler: If community members have access to reliable internet, they can go to the city's website or they can stop by the city clerk's office. We're open Monday through Friday from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. They can pick up a packet, or just ask information, or ask questions and get more information from us directly. They can call us at 907-543-1384 or email questions to the city clerk's office. I'm sure there's a lot of community members that have thought about running for city council and may have some reservations with doing so. But please give us a call, reach out to us, and let us show you that there are resources available to you as a council member that makes the job much less painful than you want to generally assume so.

Martínezcuello: Is there anything else that the public should know?

Strickler: No. Just a reminder, we have four seats. So it would be nice to have more than four candidates available and listed on the ballot so that the voters have a chance to vote in the candidates they feel best represent them. What I would like to say to people considering candidacy is that our community really provides a unique opportunity for residents to make a real difference with sitting on city council. It's really easy to effectuate change in such a small community through legislation or policy changes with the seven council members that you have and with the reliance of the volunteers through the committees and commissions. It really is a collaborative opportunity to, again, make really important and impactful changes in the community that we've all grown to love.

Francisco Martínezcuello was the KYUK News Reporting Fellow from November 2022 through January 2024. He is a graduate of UC Berkeley School of Journalism. He is also a veteran of the United States Marine Corps.
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