666-ballot election yields few surprises

City council, school board incumbents retain seats

Volunteer workers sort ballots in the 2021 Cordova General Election. (March 2, 2021) Photo by Zachary Snowdon Smith/The Cordova Times

City council, school board and hospital board incumbents all kept their seats in the vigorously contested Tuesday, March 2 Cordova General Election.

A total 666 ballots were counted on the evening of March 2, including 358 ballots cast at the Cordova Center polling station on election day, 232 ballots cast early at the polling station, 44 special needs ballots and 32 absentee mail-in ballots. Up to 15 mail-in ballots may still be counted if postmarked by March 2 and received by March 16. Additionally, five ballots of uncertain validity must be checked with the Alaska Division of Elections, City Clerk Susan Bourgeois said.

Mayor Clay Koplin praised the 13 council and board candidates’ decision to run, giving voters multiple choices in most races.

“I’m really excited to see choices,” Koplin said. “A lot of people are stepping up at every level.”

Seven candidates, including a telecommunications professional, a former health care administrator and a power plant operator, vied for two seats on the Cordova School Board. Victory fell decisively on chocolatier and incumbent board member Pete Hoepfner and retired educator Henk Kruithof. On March 2, Hoepfner received 384 votes, Kruithof received 248 votes, Bree Mills received 216 votes, Aaron Hansen received 183 votes, Katie Jo Roemhildt received 176 votes, Erin Stoermer received 22 votes and Emily Taylor received 21 votes.

Both Hoepfner and Kruithof thanked voters for their support.

“I will continue to be actively engaged at all levels, to advocate for public education and funding, and bring Cordova’s voice to the table,” Hoepfner said.

A stack of Cordova General Election ballots. (March 2, 2021) Photo by Zachary Snowdon Smith/The Cordova Times

Scientist and incumbent city council member Anne Schaefer defeated entrepreneur and former city council member Ken Jones by a relatively narrow margin of 347 votes to 312. Schaefer said she looked forward to continuing to serve on council, and Jones publicly congratulated Schaefer on her victory.

“I am disappointed in the result, but respect the people’s decision,” Jones said. “Congratulations to Anne, and thank you to all those who voted for me. It looked like a very good turnout and I am happy that Cordovans had multiple candidates for every seat to choose from, and that I urge more Cordovans to get involved in their municipal government via commission seats and running for future council seats.”

Incumbent city council member and vice mayor Melina Meyer defeated Kayak Cafe owner Karen Deaton Perry, 405 votes to 231. Deaton Perry congratulated Meyer after the result was announced.

Two candidates ran for three seats on the Cordova Community Medical Center Authority Board. Prince William Sound Science Center Finance Director and incumbent board member Linnea Ronnegard and candidate Elizabeth Senear were both successfully elected to the board, with Ronnegard receiving 559 votes and Senear 517 votes.

Voting underway in the 2021 Cordova General Election. (March 2, 2021) Photo by Zachary Snowdon Smith/The Cordova Times

Two ballot propositions also passed by decisive margins. Proposition 1 authorizes the city to take out a loan of up to $1.21 million to replace failing landfill equipment. Proposition 2 loosens conflict-of-interest rules, permitting elected officials to do business with the city under certain circumstances previously prohibited. Proposition 1 received 566 votes in favor and 93 votes against, and Proposition 2 received 455 votes in favor and 182 votes against.

The availability of special needs ballots made it easier for voters in elevated risk groups for the novel coronavirus to participate in the election. Pastor Mike Glover of Cordova Community Baptist Church delivered special needs ballots on behalf of three parishioners who chose to stay home due to a recent local coronavirus outbreak.

“Whether it’s absentee or early or special needs ballots, anything that can get more people involved in the process, I think, is a good thing,” Glover said.

Glover also praised the Cordova Chamber of Commerce for hosting a Feb. 19 video discussion forum which allowed voters to watch candidates think on their feet.