This profile is part of KTOO’s ongoing coverage of the 2013 municipal election. See all of the election coverage here.
Mary Becker has her own homework to do before every City and Borough of Juneau Assembly meeting.
“I get my packet on Friday and I look at it. Saturday morning, I read it again. Sunday afternoon, I read it again. And today, before I go to the meeting. Everything is read in depth and then it’s reviewed again. That probably adds up to four or five hours maybe, of bits and pieces, not necessarily straight through.”
It’s a bit of a turnabout for the former school teacher who may’ve been more used to handing out assignments to her elementary students.
I retired after 30 years and was a little bit restless. It was hard finding enough to do after teaching which is a very time-consuming and exhilarating type of job.”
Becker represents District 1 on the CBJ Assembly.
I enjoy helping making decisions and I really enjoy the people of Juneau. Juneau’s home. I really want to see that we do the best job we can for keeping Juneau as the home for our people. And bring more people in and have our young people stay here.”
Three of Becker’s four children still live and work in Juneau. Her husband Jim is a gillnetter and longliner, and he’s been involved in local commercial fisheries activities ranging from DIPAC to the Pacific Salmon Commission. They had lived in the same West Juneau home for most of the 47-years that they’ve resided in Juneau.
Before her first run for Assembly, Becker served on the Social Services Advisory Board and was chair of the Juneau School Board. Now on the ballot for another three-year term on the Assembly, Becker said there are unfinished priorities like improving the availability of housing in Juneau by implementing recommendations of an ad hoc housing committee.
We are not finished, of course, with all of the suggestions that the builders, developers and lenders made. We have started out with some of the big ones like the subdivision standards, the tax deferral.”
That gives developers a break on subdivided lots for as much as five years.
Becker said some of the keys to making housing affordable may include allowances for taller buildings in the Willoughby District, more density elsewhere, and potential incentives for developers like a recent discount on sand for a West Juneau apartment project.
We, of course, are hoping for more houses. We have a lot of houses that have been built this year. We’re just feeling very good about that. People have to have a home or they won’t come here.”
Becker currently serves as deputy mayor and chair of the Committee of the Whole which is essentially an Assembly workgroup. Although committee assignments will likely change after Tuesday’s municipal election, Becker currently serves on the Lands and the Finance committees. Her other duties include representing the CBJ at Southeast Conference, the UAS Campus Council, Alaska Committee, and the Chamber of Commerce, among other positions.
I think I’m definitely pro-business and I think I’m definitely development. And that is pretty much the Chamber stance, too. And, it’s actually Southeast Conference stance to try to have development that keeps jobs, produces jobs, and keeps our region and our community growing.”
Her other priorities include completion of the downtown seawalk, additional airport improvements that could include the small plane terminal and concessions in the departure lounge, more jobs that will last beyond the tourism season, finalizing the comprehensive plan, creating an economic development plan, enhancing access to the Capital City, and more work on downtown parking management.
Parking has improved, but it’s not perfect, by any means. It’s still a problem. I don’t know that we will ever have enough parking for downtown. It’s an amazing thing, but it’s improved.”
When it comes to potential redevelopment of the AJ Mine, Becker said finding a supplemental water supply should be a priority. She said other issues need to be resolved before the mine can be operated as safely and cleanly as possible.
I don’t think that we’re ready for this, to be making a decision yet. If everything got worked out to where I felt the water was good, everything was good, all-systems go, (then) I would not object to seeing if there was someone who wanted to open this mine.”
Outside of municipal government, Becker said she is a member of the Philanthropic Education Organization, a national group that promotes educational opportunities for women. She is also current chair of United Way of Southeast Alaska.
Becker is running to serve another three years representing District 1 which includes Douglas Island, part of Admiralty Island around Young Bay, and the mainland that includes Thane to downtown Juneau and up to Lemon Creek and the airport.
Qualified voters throughout the CBJ will be able to cast their ballots for that seat on October 1st.