12 apply to fill Demboski’s vacant Anchorage Assembly seat

Monday, December 17, 2018 - 10:30

A dozen people have thrown a diverse set of hats into the ring for a vacant seat on the Anchorage Assembly.

Among the applicants are a former fighter pilot, several previous political office seekers, a former assemblyman, a member of the Anchorage School Board and the owner of a marijuana retail business.

The deadline to fill the seat vacated when Amy Demboski left the assembly earlier this month to serve as deputy chief of staff for Gov. Mike Dunleavy closed at 5 p.m. Friday. Candidates submitted applications and in some cases resumes and cover letters.

The assembly will hold a special meeting at 2 p.m. on Thursday, Dec. 20 to interview the nominees. The meeting will be immediately followed by another special meeting in which the assembly will appoint someone to serve out the duration of Demboski’s term, which expires in April.

Here’s a rundown of the 12 applicants in the order they submitted packets to the municipal clerk:

Eagle River’s Oliver Schiess is a former Marine who works as a logistician in support of the Coast Guard’s Rescue-21 communication system. He recently ran unsuccessfully for State Senate. Schiess said he works well with others, has strong ethics and applied out of a desire to serve his community.

Peters Creek’s Blake Merrifield is vice president of the Chugiak Community Council and an alternate on the local road board. He works for a heavy equipment rental company and has previously run for the assembly and State House.

Birchwood’s Gretchen Wehmhoff is an educator who spent more than 20 years as a high school teacher and now works as an adjunct instructor at UAA and part-time substitute teacher who owns her own communications company. She’s a member of the Birchwood Community Council, has served on numerous organizations and has previously run unsuccessfully for the assembly and State House.

Eagle River’s Bill Starr spent nine years on the assembly before departing due to term limits in 2017. He owns Alaska Air Service, a local flightseeing company and is a past president of the Eagle River Valley Community Council.

Nick Miller of Thunderbird Falls owns the ALASKAbuds marijuana store in Anchorage and is a member of the Alaska Alcohol & Marijuana Control Office board.

Will Earnhart is an Eagle River attorney who has worked as the municipality’s senior labor and employment attorney. He is a past member of the Planning and Zoning Commission and formerly chaired the Anchorage Zoning Board of Examiners and Appeals. He previously applied for an interim appointment in 2006.

Matt Cruickshank is an equipment operator, facility maintenance technician and locksmith from Chugiak. He’s member of the Birchwood Community Council and the board’s representative to the Federation of Community Councils.

Eagle River’s Elaine Hedden is the owner of the Barefoot Wellness Studio in Eagle River.

R. Scott Williams of Eagle River is a former Marine fighter pilot who works as Chief of Standards and evaluation for the 611th Air Operations Center on Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson.

Eugene Harnett of Eagle River owns online marketing company SMAKmobi.com and is the communications director for Optima Public Relations. He lost a Republican primary election for State House earlier this year and worked as a legislative aide to former Rep. Tom Anderson.

Elisa Snelling is an Eagle River accountant who was recently elected to her second term on the Anchorage School Board.

Eagle River’s Sharon Gibbons is a law clerk and a member of the Eagle River Community Council board. She previously ran unsuccessfully for the assembly in 2014.

Email Star editor Matt Tunseth at [email protected] or call 257-4274.

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