Most people in Kodiak know Don Roberts as the crossing guard.
For the past 18 years, Roberts has volunteered his time to man the post at the intersection of Mill Bay Road and Birch Street as students make their way to classes in the morning and leave school in the afternoon.
Now, Roberts wants to also be known as an assembly member.
Roberts was born in Vermont and raised in New York. He received a bachelor’s degree in communications from Excelsior College and served 10 years in the Navy as an electronics technician.
After being honorably discharged, Roberts moved to San Diego until 1996, when he fell on hard times. He became homeless until finding a job on a floating processor in Kodiak in 1997.
There, he was able to make “a fair amount of money” that allowed him to pay off bills in San Diego and travel.
He later returned to Kodiak to work in a processing plant. Just before his arrival, however, the plant caught fire. Not only was his job not there, but now he also had to compete with those who lost jobs. At that point, Roberts said he “got stuck here.” He has lived in Kodiak ever since.
According to Roberts, this life experience has given him insight into the bureaucratic process.
”I think borough members need to be aware of the problems and what happens when you’re poor and dealing with the system,” he said.
Roberts said he is running because he offers a different perspective.
“I think oftentimes there’s a tendency to listen to people that you agree with all the time and you tend to not pay attention to those people you don’t agree with. I think we need to listen to alternate voices, and not just the loudest ones,” he said.
“I think there are people in the community that don’t often get to participate in the discussion as often as they’d like to, and I’d like to help them be heard by the assembly.”
Roberts views economic development as the answer to borough budget concerns.
He sees economic opportunity in making Kodiak more attractive to tourists with disabilities. A lack of handicap accessibility could be keeping many visitors from Kodiak, he said.
“When people travel, they tend to travel in groups – families, business groups or affinity groups. What happens is, if a community, if a place where they’re going isn’t accessible to one person in that party, the whole group doesn’t go,” he said.
“My vision for Kodiak would be to become the most accessible, the most hospitable community in Alaska for people with disabilities,” he said.
He also sees room for local economic growth using technology.
The assembly should “encourage people to get into technology-related services so they don’t have to leave Kodiak to provide a service to people outside the community. They’re generating income and they’re staying here … and they’re spending money here,” he said.
He also looks forward to addressing nonprofit funding and encouraging nonprofits to leverage community funding to secure state and federal funds.