In their own words: Council Seat A Tom Ukallaysaaq Okleasik
NN: What are your qualifications to run for the Nome Common Council?
Tom Ukallaysaaq Okleasik: It is an honor to run for the City of Nome Common Council. As an introduction, I was born and raised in Nome. My parents are LaVonne and the late Franklin Okleasik, Sr. My Inupiaq name is Ukallaysaaq after my great-grandfather. I am a tribal citizen of Nome Eskimo Community, and shareholder in Sitnasuak, Mary’s Igloo and Bering Straits Native Corporations. My wife is Igluguq Dianne Okleasik and children are Ivik and Qaulluq Henry, and Talugnaqtauq and Kavlaq Okleasik.
I believe one of my best qualifications to serve on the Nome Common Council is being a proud hometown citizen of Nome. I know our community, families and people, environment and lifestyles, and alum from our schools. I love my hometown and plan on living here the rest of my life.
In addition, my education background includes graduating with honors from Nome-Beltz High School, California Lutheran University with a Bachelor in business administration, and the University of Alaska – Northwest Campus with a Master of Arts in rural development. This education background has been very valuable for making informed decisions.
My qualifications also include my career experience from starting as an administrative intern at Norton Sound Health Corporation, to Business Manager at UAF-Northwest Campus, Project Director of Tlingit and Haida’s Vocational Training and Resource Center, Vice President of Community Services at Kawerak, Planning Director at the Northwest Arctic Borough, small business owner of Northwest Planning and Grants Development, and currently as Vice President of Corporate Affairs for Sitnasuak Native Corporation. Through these career opportunities I have built strong abilities that include experience with budgets, grants, public involvement and business management.
My qualifications also include volunteer service on the following boards: Sitnasuak Foundation, Nome Arts Council, Our Savior’s Lutheran Church, Alaska Humanities Forum, North Pacific Fisheries Management Council Outreach Committee and City of Kotzebue Local Beverage Control Board.
Overall, I believe I can be an asset to our city and community. I look forward to service on the council to represent Nome and help make it to be a great place to live and work.
NN: Why are you running for office?
Tom Ukallaysaaq Okleasik: I am running for office because I love Nome— it is my hometown. I want our community to be a great place to live for today and for future generations. When I think of running for office, I reflect on my growing up years in Nome. Nome has grown a lot, and the friendliness and caring of the people that make up the community is a strong hold. It is truly a wonderful value that supports us living and working together. Nome will continue to grow and I want to contribute to the positive programs, services and changes in our city government that will honor our people, families and environment to make Nome a better community for all.
NN: In your opinion, what are the biggest challenge facing Nome today and how do you propose as councilmember to address them?
Tom Ukallaysaaq Okleasik: One of the biggest challenges facing Nome today is the budget. There are and will be reductions from the State of Alaska that impact our city and ability to support valuable public services. In the coming years, important public decisions on revenue and cutting budgets will need to be made. We must balance our budgets and ensure our city can continue to operate efficiently.
Many city services directly contribute to the quality of life in the community: from utilities to the Recreation Center, from snow removal to dust control, from public safety to local emergency planning and response, and from port/harbor infrastructure to public schools and libraries.
I have strong experience in working with budgets and want to make sure we trim expenses wisely so we sustain our essential services and quality of life in Nome. At the same time, we need to seek and secure revenues to strengthen much needed services as a rural community with a growing population. I also have strong experience in grants and public-private partnerships to best invest in and support our community.
Another major challenge associated with the budget is economic development to support our community with jobs. Nome is the hub of the region and we need to ensure our city is supporting the necessary infrastructure, systems and organizations to both support our community and regional services. This is key economic development, especially when we look at the state budget issues and opportunities for continued growth of our organizations like Kawerak, Norton Sound Health Corporation, Norton Sound Economic Development Corporation, Bering Strait Region Housing Authority, Alaska Native Corporations and Tribes. Mining is also historically an important industry to Nome and continues to be a resource through today. We need responsible resource development that honors our environment and provides opportunities to our local residents and businesses. Another opportunity is the port infrastructure in Nome, especially with commercial fisheries and the opening of the Arctic to global marine transportation including tourism.
The City of Nome has as an important role to facilitate economic development. I would like to be a part of the council to ensure we have positive relationships with our organizations and industries that support jobs for our local people while best ensuring the promotion of our rural Alaska lifestyles. I would like to be a voice on the council to brainstorm fresh ideas in public-private partnerships and help facilitate projects from plans to development for responsible economic development that supports our city budget, local jobs and quality of life.
NN: How do you propose as councilmember to stimulate public interest in attending meetings and becoming involved in city issues?
Tom Ukallaysaaq Okleasik: As the city seeks to stimulate public interest and encourage involvement in meetings, I have found an approach of teamwork that respects citizens and organizations best supports people becoming involved and working together in city and local issues.
As a rural city, our partnerships with our people and organizations are needed each day and key to making the best decisions on important issues, which can be supported by stakeholders. We have great people in Nome and want to be involved with city issues. I want to be an encouraging and respectful city council member to ensure those voices can be listened to, expressed respectfully and engaged to work together.
NN: How can the council become motivated to provide leadership in vigorously seeking solutions to overuse of alcohol?
Tom Ukallaysaaq Okleasik: The overuse of alcohol in Nome has been a longstanding issue and the solutions range from challenging to easy steps. The council can be motivated to provide leadership by recognizing the negative impacts to our citizens, our youth and our community. These range from FAS/FAE affected newborns, lost productivity in jobs and domestic violence among families.
As a council, we need to seek partnerships in addressing the overuse of alcohol. There are reasons for the overuse and we need to be able to truthful and respectful in examining the issues. For vigorous solutions, we need to vigorously identify reasons for overuse so effective solutions that fit our community can be strategized and developed in partnership with our people and community.
In closing, I appreciate your support and vote as a homegrown leader that can work as a team member on the council for a great Nome!