A record of 639 people turned out on Wednesday for the Mat-Su Valley Board of Fish and Game Advisory Committee elections. Eight positions were up for election on the 15-member advisory committee. Andy Couch and Mel Grove were re-elected to three-year terms with 612 and 604 votes respectively. New members voted to fill the other three-year seats are Tony Jones, Dan Montgomery and Steve Bartelli. Five-hundred-and-four voters cast their ballots for Bennett Durgeloh to fill a two-year term seat. Elected to be alternates were Erick Beckman and Kathy Thompson.
Andy Couch said that the polling place at the Wasilla High School was packed and that it took over one hour to sign in the huge crowd of voters. Fearing that the Mat-Su Advisory Committee would be filled with conservation-minded candidates representing wildlife viewers, two pro-hunting and fishing groups rallied support for their candidates. The Wasilla group of Conservative Patriots and the Alaska chapter of Sportsmen for Fish and Wildlife passed out flyers with the names of candidates they endorsed. All candidates on their lists were elected. Three candidates not endorsed by the groups received no more than 47 votes each. Following the elections, the committee voted for new officers. Steve Darilek is the new chair person, vice chair is Bill Folsom and Andy Couch is the secretary.
Jim Marcotte, executive director for the Board of Fisheries explained that advisory committees are intended to provide a local voice to advise the Boards of Fish and Game. The advisory committees use their local expertise to provide recommendations when the Boards of Fish and Game make changes to hunting and fishing regulations. Statewide, there are 81 advisory committees. Within the Southcentral region, there are 18 local advisory committees. Talkeetna falls within the Susitna Valley Advisory Committee area. Although Wednesday’s elections concerned the south-eastern portion of the Matanuska-Susitna area, Susitna Valley Advisory Committee chairman Steve Runyan of Willow said they impact our area. Runyan said that the two committees are closely linked and work together so that they can speak with a unified voice on proposals. Runyan said that the new composition of the Mat-Su committee is in alignment with Susitna Valley Advisory Committee members and their interests.