Voters participate in the Cordova General Election on March 1, 2022. File photo by Zachary Snowdon Smith for The Cordova Times

Tuesday, March 5 will bring the Cordova city elections. Six seats — two on the school board, two on the hospital board, and two on the City Council — will be filled. There is just one candidate per seat, and only one candidate is new and not up for reelection.  

Cordovans will also vote on one proposition, which would amend parts of the City Charter related to City Council seats, the terms of the mayor and City Council members, and remove the minimum 40% vote threshold for mayoral and City Council candidates. 

The proposed new text to Section 10-2 would read: “The term of each council member shall be three years and shall continue until a successor has been elected and qualified. The term of the mayor shall be three years and shall continue until a successor has been elected and qualified.” 

Section 10-4 would be edited down to read: “A voter may also write in the name of, and vote for, a person whose name does not appear on the ballot. In case of a tie, the election shall be determined fairly by a drawing from among the candidates tying, in a meeting of the council and under its direction.” 

Section 2-1 will be amended to change designated council seats to non-designated council seats, meaning there would no longer be designated seats A through G and instead just seven city council members.  

Early in-person voting is available at the Cordova Center from 8 to 5 p.m. on weekdays until March 4. Applications for absentee ballots will be accepted until Feb. 27 via mail to City Clerk, City of Cordova, PO Box 1210, Cordova, AK 99574, or by email to [email protected]. Absentee ballots cast by mail must be received by the City Clerk by March 19. Absentee ballots cast by drop box must be placed in the drop box by the close of polls on March 5. There is one election drop box in Cordova, it is located upstairs at the Cordova Center main entrance under the covered drop-off driveway. 

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In-person voting on March 5 is located at Community Room A in the Cordova Center. Polls are open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. 

More information can be found on the City of Cordova’s Website: https://www.cityofcordova.net/.  

Candidate profiles 

Wendy Ranney is running for reelection for City Council Seat D. Last week David Zastrow announced a write-in campaign for Anne Schaefer’s seat, Seat E, after Schaefer termed out. Each candidate is running for a regular three-year term. 

Peter Hoepfner and Henk Kruithof are running to maintain their school board seats, which would have them on the board for another three-year term. School board seats do not have term limits. Diane Ujioka and Elizabeth (Liz) Senear are both running again for Hospital Services Board members seats, which are regular, three-year terms also with no term limits. 

Elizabeth (Liz) Senear was traveling, so she declined to participate in The Cordova Times candidate profiles. 

David Zastrow – City Council Seat E 

David Zastrow is the only candidate who did not already hold the seat he’s running for. He first moved to Cordova in 1991 for a career with the U.S. Forest Service in the Cordova Ranger District. He met his wife Tanya in Cordova, and they have been married for more than 28 years. He is a public services staff officer, and oversees 14 permanent and seasonal employees in the areas of developed recreation, heritage, administrative facilities, and quarter management. He is also a homeowner, and his home includes a long-term rental unit. 

Why Cordova? What makes Cordova so special? 

I consider myself incredibly fortunate to have found Cordova and make it my home for 28 years. Many across the state and country are looking for the life and lifestyle our community enjoys. There are many things that make Cordova special to me, including: a safe place to live and raise a family, the surrounding natural resources that are abundant and mostly intact ecosystems, the outdoor recreation opportunities are plentiful and easily accessible, we have a significant diversity of local organizations that provide employment opportunities, new local businesses including mariculture, and our commercial fishing industry — although changing — is still strong and diverse compared to many Alaska locations. Additionally, Cordovans have a solid sense of who they are and their connection to the past. We look out for each other no matter our differences. When a Cordovan is in need, we come together individually and as a community to help.     

You declared as a write-in. Why are you running, and what makes you qualified? 

I am seeking a seat on the City Council because of an overall desire to serve this community. I want to represent the citizens in finding ways to make our city an even better place to work and live. My goal is to encourage Cordovans to be more engaged in their local government and believe that citizen participation enhances public trust in government and our democratic institutions. This leads to a better shared understanding of opportunities and challenges. As for qualifications, I feel my current position as an employee and staff officer with the U.S. Forest Service in the Cordova Ranger District has taught me a great deal about building partnerships that bring together diverse entities to explore solutions. Also, I am familiar with city operations by currently serving on the Parks and Recreation Commission as vice-chair, the Cordova Trails Committee as chair, and as a member of the Cordova Chamber of Commerce Destination Tourism Strategy Leadership Team. I have also served on the Cordova Electric Cooperative Board as secretary/treasurer, Cordova Comprehensive Plan Committee, and Cordova Volunteer Fire Department. 

How would you describe the current performance of the City Council? 

Whatever the challenges of the day or the times we live in, our City Council has a tough task to do. The present council has performed admirably in balancing the city budget, giving the renovation of our South Harbor top priority, and carrying out the Cordova Comprehensive Plan. I’m excited about the prospect of joining them in the work ahead.     

How do you work with others who you may disagree with, and how do you make the table bigger to include everyone in the conversation? 

Respecting and hearing each other out when discussing difficult issues and differing viewpoints is the first step when working in diverse groups. After this is established, I am open to having my opinions challenged and even to having my mind changed on any topic if given a convincing argument. To discover the best solutions that work for everyone involved, this is crucial. Not to mention that inclusive solutions necessitate interacting with every Cordovan. While it requires work, it is frequently well worth it. The public forums and workshops the city hosted while creating the Cordova Comprehensive Plan is an excellent example. The Parks & Recreation Department is currently developing a master plan, and part of that process involves holding workshops where the public can offer feedback. The city also maintains a number of advisory commissions and boards that meet regularly in public. These are some of the greatest chances for community members to voice their opinions and be heard. 

How do you propose the city address rising costs of housing and housing shortages in the city?  

The housing situation in our community is not new. For those just arriving to our town, finding a place to buy or rent has never been easy. People in the community often share their difficulties in finding housing with me when they inquire about my small rental property. But in recent years, housing values and rental rates have only gone up, and borrowing rates are currently much higher. In a tiny town like Cordova, with a limited inventory of housing, the solutions are not simple. State land use restrictions, measures to lower construction costs, and collaborating with federal and state housing programs for support are some of the areas we should continue looking into to expand the supply of available housing. 

How do you propose the city address the numerous vacancies in city positions and turnover in these positions? 

Not so surprising, much of the worker retention and recruitment difficulties we face in our community are caused by our housing shortage. Additionally, the general cost of living in our community has increased. These are major reasons why we face high numbers of vacancies and turnover within the city and throughout all organizations in Cordova. However, targeted recruiting is a good way to find the right people for each job. This would include: 

  • Outreach and targeted recruitment to reach underrepresented members of our community. 
  • Expanding reach via job fairs, professional and trade organizations, conferences, graduate programs, college campuses, and social media. 
  • Making sure candidates are aware of the benefits as part of the offer. 
  • Creation of paid internships and apprenticeship positions, with supervision opportunities for existing staff to help with career advancement. 

What is the most important problem facing Cordova, and how do you plan to work on addressing it? 

There are multiple issues Cordova is currently facing that need attention. Undoubtedly, the lack of housing and the retention and vacancies of city employees rank very high. The city also faces a significant backlog of deferred maintenance for Parks and Recreation facilities, refuse issues related to wildlife encounters managing our landfill, and ongoing efforts to improve harbor infrastructure. It will not be straightforward or simple to handle all of these challenges within the constraints of the city budget. To find those answers, though, I hope to have the chance to collaborate with Cordova’s community, the city manager, and council members. 

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