Rowland Tries to Balance Needs of Industry, Residents

Thursday, September 26 2013

This week, KUCB is profiling candidates running in the October 1 municipal election. Today, we hear from Roger Rowland, who is running for re-election to city council seat C.

Roger Rowland’s business is fishing. He owns a 58-foot seiner and fishes salmon, cod, halibut, and crab with his family.

And that's what brought him to city council: Over the years, Rowland became more involved with fisheries advocacy groups and boat-owners’ associations. That work sparked an interest in local politics.

"I realized it’s important for logical, normal people to be involved in the process," Rowland says.

Rowland was appointed to fill a vacant seat on city council in 2007, and he's served ever since. He says he’s grown more confident as time wears on. He's not afraid to express opinions -- and along with that, Rowland says he’s gotten more comfortable with dissension among the council.

"That’s probably the biggest way I’ve evolved and it probably hasn’t even shown to the public," Rowland says. "But it’s like, no, we can disagree about a policy and still move forward and agree about the next policy, and work together."

That came in handy this winter, when the Unalaska Native Fisherman’s Association revived a campaign to ban pollock trawling in Unalaska Bay. They asked city council to pass a resolution urging the state to close the bay for good.

Rowland was the only no vote. He said there wasn’t scientific proof that trawling is to blame for poor subsistence harvests. The resolution passed regardless, and while the state didn’t ban trawling in Unalaska Bay, they did limit it.

Rowland says he’s happy to leave the issue there.

"We as a community made that decision and I will stand with that decision. I would certainly not bring it back on behalf of the trawlers. Even as a fisherman, I like to think I bring some fisherman positions to the table, I am here to represent the community."

Along those lines, Rowland says he’d like to do more to reduce the cost of living in Unalaska. Rising utility rates area a big concern, for instance, and they affect everyone.

But Rowland doesn’t think the city should pass on the costs to processing plants, in the form of higher utility rates or taxes, to avoid sticker shock for residents.

"I’ve watched processors go broke -- processors I have fished for -- literally go bankrupt and pull out of the fishery," Rowland says. "It’s not necessarily that the processors can just afford it."

Balancing the needs of industry and the community is important to Rowland. He thinks he has a good rapport with constituents in both arenas.

But Rowland’s opponent disagrees. Katherine Labert is running against Rowland as a write-in candidate. She says Rowland’s out of town for a significant portion of the year, and misses too many council meetings.

Rowland is gone from late May through August for the fishing season. He says he tries to fly back as often as he can for meetings, but it’s not always possible.

"I don’t really apologize for missing the summer because that’s what I do," Rowland says. "That’s what I did before I got on the council. I’ve done that since 1985. I’ve done that longer than I’ve lived here. So everybody knows that; they know that’s my life. And so far, they’ve chosen to elect me."

Rowland will take questions from constituents Thursday night at KUCB's Candidates Forum. 

News Community About Site by Joseph Redmon