FAIRBANKS, Alaska (KTVF) After four years on the Fairbanks North Star Borough Assembly, Incumbent and Presiding Officer Matt Cooper is running for reelection to seat I. While 23-year-old Zachary Floyd is running for public office for the first time.
“I’m running for re-election because after the last three years of service plus one year of being appointed, I realized that the borough has a lot of challenges facing it. When I first ran for office, I was kind of anticipating some of the budget issues that we’re facing now, I had no idea that they would be as extreme as they are, but I really wanted to get involved and make sure that Fairbanks remained a great place, a great community for my kids and future generations to live in, and so I just want to keep doing that work,” said Cooper.
“In short, I feel that it is my responsibility, in a lot of ways, I feel like we’re supposed to be contributing to our community, helping each other, I don’t think I need to wait until I’m older to do that,” said Floyd.
Floyd thinks that zoning and property assessment should be readdressed and Cooper thinks the budget will the biggest issue facing the borough.
“The problem with trying to sort out the issues, is that some are higher on the spectrum just because they take up a lot of attention than there are some that are high on the priority list just because they’re actually achievable, like in the short term, and that’s where a lot of my focus has been. Issues that I think should be addressed soon would include zoning, readdressing zoning. That’s been contested a little bit back and forth between the city and the borough, and I think it should be brought back up, and just the process for zoning reassessed. I think the way that we do the assessment of property should be looked at. I think those two things, obviously budget is huge, and that’s up in the air right now, and we can try and be available for it, but a lot of what’s going to be happening with the budget is with the state level. But there’s a lot of things we can address ourselves internally that can help streamline and make things more efficient and help smooth over a lot of the big changes that are happening,” said Floyd.
“Well I think we’re going to continue to face budget issues, I think as the state deals with its budget we’re going to see less support from the state for a lot of programs. One of my biggest concerns going forward is state funding for public education because I think public education is one of the most important things that we can invest in both as a state and as a community, so I want to make sure that we’re continuing to make sure that we have a strong education system in Fairbanks,” said Cooper.
Cooper said since his four years in office, he has learned that the borough affects people in more ways than they think about. “We all know of schools, and libraries, and animal shelter, those kinds of public facing services that the borough runs but we also do a lot in terms of solid waste management, obviously we have transfer sites, and landfills, emergency medical services, fire services, ya know roads outside of the state roads, that road service areas maintain and manage, the borough just really affects people in a lot of ways, and kind of help keep the community glued together and keep us all going,” said Cooper.
Cooper said while being presiding officer, he does a lot more administrative tasks, like scheduling and appointing people to committees. “A lot more interfacing with the borough administration so through that I’ve actually had an opportunity to get a better sense of how the borough functions on a day to day basis. Assembly meetings are only once every couple weeks and we get to see what comes to us, but as presiding officer, I’m much more involved in the day to day business,” said Cooper.
Floyd said he thinks maturity is the qualifying factor for positions in government, and said he doesn’t think age factors into that very much.
“I’m born and raised here, my dad was in the military, they got stationed up here at Fort Wainwright, and that’s where I was born. I’m 23 years old now, I jumped into the workforce as soon as I could, I did a lot of labor type jobs, construction, for a long time, then I worked in the safety field, and now I work as a bookkeeper, which I think is my passion, I quite enjoy that.”
When asked what they hope to gain from being on the assembly:
“I hope to continue to give back to the community, I grew up in Fairbanks, it’s an important place to me, so what I hope to gain, is that we continue to have a strong community. I think it’s really important with the issues going on statewide to make sure that Fairbanks remains a strong place to live, a place where people want to live.”
“Myself personally, I’ve already gained quite a bit, just in terms of experience, having met people, being exposed to a lot of ideas across the board, not good or bad, more like new ideas, and a lot of different angles that people are coming from, and that has been tremendous just for me as a person, and I know I can count on looking forward to that sitting on the assembly as well.”
Cooper says he should be reelected because of his experience, while Floyd thinks he can bring a new perspective to the assembly.
“I’ve got experience, I’ve been on the assembly for about four years, and I think this is a time where we really need people who have some experience to help guide us through the next few years of uncertainty. I think probably most importantly, I really just love our community and want to continue to keep it a great place for people to live. I’m always willing to listen to people, I don’t have all the answers, our community has a lot of the answers, and I think we’re starting more and more to get some really great community input on how to solve some of these really tough problems. So I think I’ll continue to listen to everybody who comes and talks to me and comes and talks to us at assembly meetings and just do everything I can to keep making Fairbanks great,” said Cooper.
“I missed the cut off by one year, I’m technically Gen Z, I’m not a millennial, and the changing state of affairs worldwide is affecting a lot of things, and I think having a fresh pair of eyes to help with that transition. For instance, I’m aware that we just changed the name of the computer department to the digital services department for the borough and it was a little surprising to be that it took that long to make that switch, but little things like that, I feel like I present a completely new angle on what’s going on and I can provide some new insights as to how we should be moving forward,” said Floyd.
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