In Race For Unalaska's Mayor, Tutiakoff Defeats Robinson By 22 Votes

Oct 7, 2019

Vince Tutiakoff Sr., photographed at Unalaska's Humpy Cove during the Qawalangin Tribe's 2019 Camp Qungaayux. Tutiakoff is a culture camp mentor, as well as a board member for the Ounalashka and Aleut Corporations.
Credit Hope McKenney/KUCB

Unalaska has elected a new mayor. Vince Tutiakoff Sr. won the office in last week's municipal election, defeating current Vice Mayor Dennis Robinson by 22 votes.

"To the people who voted for me, I really appreciate their votes and confidence," said Tutiakoff. "And I'll do the best I can."

Tutiakoff serves as board chairman for the Ounalashka Corporation. He said he'll take pride in being the city's first Unangax̂ mayor since the late Walter Dyakanoff, who held the post in the 1960s.

"I think that means a lot to me and the Aleut people," he said. "But I think it's important for everybody to know that I'm here for the community, and that means everybody. There's no particular group that I represent. It's the whole community."

During his three-year term, Tutiakoff said he plans to focus on Unalaska's energy, environment, and economy.

"Alternative energy — we need to take a close look at it," he said. "[We need to] look at our budget. We're having a lot of concerns with the state of Alaska and their funding. That's going to be No. 1 and 2 on my priority list."

Tutiakoff is replacing Mayor Frank Kelty, who's retiring to California after a decades-long career in local politics and the fishing industry.

Meanwhile, Robinson will retain his seat on the City Council.

Vince Tutiakoff Sr. (left) and Dennis Robinson wait for election results on Friday, Oct. 4 at Unalaska City Hall. Tutiakoff won the close mayor's race with about 49 percent of the vote.
Credit Laura Kraegel/KUCB

"I feel, naturally, disappointed. I was looking forward to being a mayor," said Robinson. "But I'm still on the council, and I have a vote. And I will do everything I can to help Vince."

Like Tutiakoff, Robinson serves on OC's board of directors and he's interested in an alternative to the city's diesel powerhouse. He said the corporation is reviving a plan to build a facility at Makushin Volcano.

"The geothermal project that OC is working on is going to be a game-changer," he said. "It will allow other industries to come in here. It's always been a goal of mine to diversify our economy so that we don't get taken to our knees if the fishing slows."

Robinson said he expects the fisheries that drive Unalaska's current economy to take a big hit as climate change warms the waters of the Bering Sea. To offset losses, he wants the city to capitalize on its growing cruise ship tourism, as well as pursue the possibility of an increased military presence.

In the election's other contested race, former teacher Josh Good unseated Denise Rankin at school board seat D. He won by 16 votes.

"As a former teacher who's worked in different roles in Alaska schools since 2004 — and in Unalaska, specifically, since 2011 — I can offer insights and ideas from my experience in the classroom, my education schooling, and my extracurricular work with school teams, groups, programs, and different committees," said Good during the 2019 Candidates Forum. "This is a perspective, I feel, that is absent on the school board, and I believe it could be very beneficial."

The City Council is scheduled to certify election results Tuesday, Oct. 8 at 6 p.m. at City Hall. The school board's next meeting is set for Thursday, Oct. 17 at 7 p.m.