Juneau Assembly candidate Carlton Smith has family roots in the Capital City dating back more than 120 years. But his campaign slogan is “For Juneau’s Future.” Lately, Smith has been having a lot of “kitchen table” talks with his sons, 16-year-old Kevin and 21-year-old Alex.
“They’ve been asking me, ‘Well, Dad, I’m thinking about establishing my roots here and looking what my options would be for a career. What is Juneau’s future going to look like?'” says Smith.
To answer that question, he points to his understanding of Juneau’s past. His grandfather worked at the Treadwell Mine until it closed in 1922, when the family moved to Skagway. Smith grew up in Haines, and went to Stanford University, where he graduated with a degree in political science in 1974. He moved Juneau for the first time after college to work in state government. Later he lived in Anchorage, but returned to the Capital City for good in 1998.
“I have a context that is Juneau past, present and hopefully Juneau future. That’s why I’ve chosen for my campaign to be future oriented,” Smith says.
A well-known businessman, Smith has owned a commercial real estate company since 1989. His clients have included Alaska Native corporations; federal agencies like the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development; and multinational corporations, like Exxon Mobil. He’s also been on the board of directors for Sealaska regional Native Corporation; was CEO of Kootznoowoo, the Native Corporation for Angoon; and has served on various non-profit boards over the years.
“I have a keen understanding of what it takes to keep a business afloat, and I think I also have a keen understanding of priorities, and I’m a decision maker. So this is what I hope to bring to the assembly,” he says.
Ask him what his vision for Juneau’s future entails, and Smith rattles off a list of ambitious goals that include making the city a regional leader in health care and solid waste, a statewide center for vocational education, and a national model for energy efficiency and savings.
“We need a creative vision of where this community is going. And that’s what I want to be a part of,” says Smith.
But he says details will be just as important as the big picture. The city predicts a 2012 budget shortfall in the millions of dollars. Since announcing his candidacy, Smith says he’s been meeting with city department heads. He thinks Juneau can find ways to save, but says it will have to be a collaborative process.
“I don’t think anybody wants to see job loss. That certainly wouldn’t be my objective,” he says. “But, the sooner we get to it the better, because in the first year, Rod Swope’s going to take to the assembly a first year deficit reduction of five million dollars. And that’s very admirable. But it’s going to require great focus by the assembly.”
Smith supports a ballot proposition extending Juneau’s temporary three-percent sales tax, which among other things pays for police, fire, and emergency services, as well as some capital projects. He’s against a citizens’ initiative imposing a tax on plastic shopping bags, designed to encourage consumers to bring their own. And he’s in favor of an assembly-backed proposition exempting Juneau from state financial disclosure rules for public officials, and replacing them with local regulations.
“In my opinion they really do have a chilling effect,” Smith say. “The requirements really do discourage quality people from public service.”
Smith says the city should proceed cautiously on the AJ Mine – one of the more controversial issues taken up by the assembly in the last year. But before any mine development takes place, he says Juneau should develop an alternative water supply.
“The drinking water issue is number one and it has to be assessed first,” says Smith.
Smith faces Loren Jones and Geny Del Rosario in the race for an area-wide assembly seat. This is his first run for political office.