Seward mayor to propose additional police officer position amid public safety concerns
Minutes after Seward Mayor Christy Terry’s term began at Monday night’s city council meeting, citizens stepped up to the podium to express frustration over the handling of a recent homicide investigation.
“There are murderers among us,” Brooke Andrews said tearfully.
Andrews' nephew, 21-year-old Preston Atwood, was killed in August. More than 60 days later, she publicly questioned why there have been no charges or arrests in the case.
“The police chief works for you. The city manager and the council work for the community and the community wants to feel safe,” she told the council.
Despite the obvious tension, Terry saw the meeting as a positive sign of community engagement.
“Last night’s meeting was really encouraging because a lot of citizens came out,” she said during an interview at City Hall Tuesday morning, later adding, “people want to effect change in this community and that’s half the battle right there.”
Seward has a council-manager form of local government, meaning Terry’s role as mayor is ceremonial in nature and a volunteer position. She is, however, the presiding head over the council’s meetings — an area where she’d like to increase efficiency.
“We talk about things and talk about things,” she said. “It’s time as a council to identify projects and move forward, identify issues, identify solutions and move those things forward.”
When it comes to crime in Seward — a hot button issue for the community right now — Terry said the community is seeing symptoms of a problem impacting the rest of the state.
“I think it’s just indicative of a larger issue of crime in Alaska,” she said.
She plans to put forward a possible solution, proposing resources for an additional police officer position in the budget, and citizen comments from Monday night’s meeting signal the measure will be met with community support.
“I think that there’s a general acceptance and that will move forward in the budget process to have another officer on the police force,” Terry said.
Currently, the Seward Police Department is a force of 10 officers, including the chief. Terry’s proposal would add an eleventh officer position.
While public safety concerns have dominated Seward’s exposure in recent days, Terry said there are several bright spots to focus on, including a booming tourism industry and upcoming infrastructure projects.
“One of the things we say is, ‘Alaska starts here,’” she said. “Seward is mile 0 of the Iditarod, mile 0 of the railroad. We have trades with all parts of Alaska through our marine infrastructure, so Seward is really connected to all the state. So, our success is just gonna reverberate out to the rest of Alaska and I think the state, really, again, has a lot of opportunities for success.”
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