Vanessa Jusczak

Running for Denali Borough Mayor

About me

Alaska born, Denali Borough raised, I returned to Healy in 2006, to raise my children here.

Healy is a wonderful place to raise a family. My children, as I was, have been blessed with family & friends who have cared for them, teachers and coaches who have watched them grow and stayed part of their lives, community members who led by example and opportunities to be engaged, active and contribute.

The first person who approached me about running for mayor in 2020 got a chuckle. So did the second. By the third, I thought "what is happening here? I'm not a politician!"

It wasn't until this spring, when I was approached by someone I consider a leader in our community, that I began to seriously think about running.

Initially, I struggled to find "my why". (Book: 'Start with Why', Simon Sinek) As I sought the counsel of friends, colleagues and those with political experience, the 'why' became apparent.

About me

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I've spent the last 6 years as the Executive Director of Denali Chamber of Commerce, and the last 3 years as the Executive Director of Discover Denali, working to develop our community and address a wide range of needs, issues and ideas.

I have a wide range of contacts across many industries, from public entities to private corporations, and including state and federal lawmakers.

Serving as Mayor of the Denali Borough would allow me to continue that work, on a broader, more impactful scale. With a team and a budget, I know some of the very things I've spent my time working on, could very well happen for the Denali Borough.

My 'why' hasn't changed. I believe it is the responsibility of every citizen, to contribute to their community through action (no matter how small), to grow and strengthen their home and support their neighbors.

It would be my honor to continue to do so for my community, friends, neighbors and family.

Denali borough specifics

What's next?

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I think Mayor Walker and his team, and the Borough Assembly are top notch. The fiscal health of the Borough, the foresight of planning for the future, response to crisis and states of emergency, we do so many things well. Our borough is in good shape.

Yet, there is still work to do in planning for our future. Eight years ago, I participated in the Healy Transportation and Pedestrian Safety Committee, which provided feedback for Borough planning. The coordinator of the process made a comment that I think about often with my work: "do you want to intentionally plan for the future of your community, or do you want to be Wasilla (sorry Wasilla)?" There are challenges and growing pains ahead that we need to plan for. Keeping a balance between the small towns we love, and the growth we are experiencing is important. Ensuring there are opportunities for growth is important as well.

The economic base of the Denali Borough government is our tourism industry. Covid-19 demonstrated the danger in an "all eggs in one basket" approach. Building a community with intention requires serious conversations and intentional decisions for a organized future.

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It is time for us, as communities, to evaluate ways to diversify and ensure we have the financial resources to support our priorities - despite pandemic, forest fire, landslide, flooding or other factors that could potentially devastate future tourism seasons. How do we get there? What are we committed to as a Borough? What are we willing to invest? What is our hardline for saying no?

How do we share our open spaces with visitors, while preserving them for residents? How do we ensure land for homes and businesses, and ensure harmony between land owners? How do we tackle availability of housing, seasonal and year-round, to ensure that the workforce we need has a place to live? What opportunities can we encourage or provide, for workforce development - to upskill the residents we have, to fill the jobs we have open?

As an individual I often struggle with the melding of what I want for my family and personal experiences, and what I recognize as growth and development that is good for my community. But finding a path forward and establishing middle ground is something I'm good at.

I'm ready to tackle the next set of challenges for the Denali Borough and firmly believe, everything is figureoutable.


Through partnership, advocacy, grants,and Borough actions.

Relevant Education & Experience

2015 - Present

Board of Directors, Fairbanks Basketball Officials Assoc.

Relevant Duties Include:

Organizational management, contracts and policies, HR, payroll, training and recruitment, independent contractor management

2017 - Present

Executive Director of Denali Chamber of Commerce

Relevant duties include:

Attention to Local, state and federal laws, policies and regulations impacting local business and commerce, collaboration and response with Statewide agencies, attendance of Denali Borough Assembly Meetings, advocacy and communication statewide for economic health and growth, understanding of social/environmental/economic challenges for the Denali Borough, complete organization management, community engagement, public speaking and more.

2020 - Present

Executive Director of Denali Visitor Center

Relevant duties include:

Attention to statewide policy, development and growth of Alaska's tourism industry, marketing, website and print creation, staff management, complete organization management, social media and public outreach and more.

2022 - Presently Pursuing:

Small Business Administration

University of Alaska Southeast

* Estimated completion Spring 2025

Certificate of Organizational Management

Institute of Organizational Management

* Will complete January 2024

More about me

How I Feel About …..



Officiating Basketball

Being Late

Solitary Hiking/Camping Adventures


Classical Orchestral Pop Music


Watching My Kids Play Hockey






Vanessa Jusczak was raised in Healy and has chosen to raise her family here. I think having that background to our community is an asset for a candidate for Denali Borough Mayor. Her leadership in the Denali Chamber of Commerce has given her the experience to understand our community and economic development needs.

Mark Menke,

DArlin Enterprises


While I made my decision to run some months ago, my temporary, primary focus needed to be the health of the organizations I am entrusted to run.

I didn’t want to announce until I had spoken with both my board presidents, and some work was completed behind the scenes.

We have ensured both organizations are prepared for a possible transition to new leadership, and poised for growth and success.

It was REALLY hard to field questions at the store, the library, the post office, the soccer games - and NOT spill the beans. But timing and preparation is important, and I feel this was the correct avenue for me to take.

That being said: THANK YOU! Thank you to all the people who encouraged me to run, told me they would vote for me, expressed their trust in me, and told me I had their support - even as I remained silent.

It has meant so much through this planning stage, even though at times it felt so awkward and sneaky.

If you’d like to officially go on the record as a supporter, please click the image below to email my campaign address, and add your name to the list! I’d love even more, if you shared YOUR why!

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Everything is figureoutable

Reach out!

I'd love to hear your thoughts and answer any questions you might have.

Vanessa Jusczak

Connect with me

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My supporters

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Kathy Hennigan

Their Whys

As a local business owner and having served on the Denali Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors, I’ve seen first-hand how much Vanessa cares about this community. We’d all be hard-pressed to find anyone who cares more. The goals Vanessa has outlined for her vision for Denali, are all points I’ve heard her passionately speak about for years. Given the platform of Mayor, I have no doubt that all of those goals would be accomplished in spades. The communities in the Denali Borough would benefit greatly with her at the helm and would be fortunate to have her.

~ Jessica Rinck

I think one of your best attributes is that you like sitting down and having conversations with people from different backgrounds and ideas. It makes you an extremely strong person that can see things from multiple facets.

~ Lacey Gaddis, former resident

You have ALWAYS been a leader. You are hard working and dedicated. You put your heart in everything I've ever seen you do. You're personable, funny, and intelligent. You truly understand and love this borough, that is why I feel you would be a huge asset. You have my support 100%

~ Bobbi Jean Stewart

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Opening land for housing & community development

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Land access and availability is the single largest obstacle for growth of the Denali Borough.

We have made some good forward movement in this area with the Denali Borough Land Planning Commission actions over the last several years. But the wheels of government are slow, and we need to examine other solutions as well, such as discussions with current large scale land owners and the Alaska Railroad.

The lack of affordable, accessible and year-round housing prevents some seasonal residents from establishing Borough residency, prevents current year-round residents from upsizing due to family growth, requires some renters to move every six months and limits availability of homes to purchase.

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This directly impacts local business ability to hire and retain employees, fully cover all organizational positions, expand their operations and reduce turnover. This impacts our largest, year-round employers significantly, and often impacts seasonal workforce as well.

This is an issue the Denali Borough needs to address through partnership with local residents, the State of Alaska, housing developers and local partnerships. The reality is, what we work on today might come to fruition many years down the line.

We are playing catch-up to the needs of the Borough communities where affordable, quality housing is concerned.

To fully understand the Denali Borough housing market and it’s impacts on residents and employment, we needed data. A better understanding of what kind and type of housing is needed, the number of current nightly rentals, the number of substandard homes, and accounting for seasonally used (owner occupied) homes will all give us a better idea of realistic needs, areas of focus and potential action.

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We have no cohesive approach to cultural, sustainable or ecological tourism, Borough beautification and signage, access and transportation services, long term planning for our tourism industry, and how it merges with our homes and lifestyles.

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These are conversations that are happening around the State, that the Denali Borough needs to be engaged and active in. Whether this is accomplished with partnership through organizations and businesses, or through the Denali Borough Community & Outdoor Recreation Committee or the Planning Commission - it is long overdue.

With tourism being responsible for nearly 80% (and growing) of the local tax revenue, it is time we support the industry that has supported us. That can look like many things - and each of them will better the Denali Borough, in addition to the visitors, residents and businesses served.

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Through support of regional partners, such as the Denali Chamber of Commerce, Railbelt Mental Health, Denali Borough EMS and fire departments and the Denali Borough School District, I believe it is possible to train local residents to meet local demand for year-round skilled positions.

Let’s face it - the cost of education and training can be prohibitive to those seeking new job skills - especially when those classes must be somewhere else, and require additional monetary commitment for lodging, gas etc. Supporting those already living in the Denali Borough helps keep our talent local. Many of our needs come from volunteer vacancy .... there are not as many people stepping up to support our communities through personal action (fire, EMS for example) and growth in some areas has made this no longer practical.

On top of employment opportunities, general education experiences can also be provided. I love the model of Delta Partners for Progress, and would work hard to establish a Denali Borough relevant version for our long term Borough growth anddevelopment

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While this speaks to training and upskilling, it also goes far beyond that. Working together with regional partners sets the stage for all of us to be more successful. The Denali Borough already does this well in many areas (State of Alaska DOT and NPS immediately come to mind).

Highlighting our successes naturally invites more participation and collaboration. We need to continue partnerships with significant organizations and entities, as we build a strong, Borough wide coalition to meet our needs, plan for our future and play to our strengths - without any one group having to carry the full burden.

The addition of Community Development Director to Denali Borough staff has been key in our successes thus far, and provides connection to partners in a critical way.

Business Partnership

Additional areas of collaboration should include:

  • Healthcare infrastructure
  • Mental health services
  • Community wellness programs
  • Recreation and engagement site opportunities
    • indoor & outdoor
    • sport and venue
  • Aging population needs and programs
  • Destination marketing for the Denali Borough in its entirety
  • Education and workforce development
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Diversify and stabilize revenue streams

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No one likes the “T” word (taxes). As changes happen within the Denali Borough, I frequently hear speculation on when property, income or sales taxes will arrive. It is important to remember the code of the Denali Borough prohibits the creation and implementation of any tax, without a vote of the people.

That being said - as more services are requested by Denali Borough residents (think road maintenance or trail systems) - these are conversations we need to have. Do we want to provide some general services to our communities? Do we want to build and maintain infrastructure? If we do, how will we pay for them, as residents or a government? How much are we willing to pay? How do we ensure equality for all residents (Borough wide) for services and infrastructure we might provide?

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Additionally, Covid showed the dangers of the current revenue streams we have. How can we diversify our financial base in a way that ensures fiscall health and success, even through unforeseen circumstances? Our forward funding model, combined with hard work on the behalf of our Mayor, Borough Assembly and school district are WHY we came through Covid and the resulting financial impacts as well as we did. But it is our responsibility to react with planning and adjustment to mitigate the impacts of a future similar situation.

Without a doubt, those conversations will evoke emotion and likely some anger. But they need to be held anyway - in a way that allows for everyone to be heard, information and suggestions to be gathered - and residents to be part of the solution moving forward.

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Many of the things we need in the Borough could absolutely be provided by private industry. Housing, skilled workforce, support industry, locations for development all play a role in attracting or repelling potential businesses.

Most municipalities have incentives and data to offer businesses who might be considering moving into an area. For example: low tax rates, growing population, available land sales, good infrastructure (low power rates, high speed internet, etc), a college or tech school nearby for employment recruitment.

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If we seek new business and industry - whether it is medical, skilled labor (plumbing, carpentry, mechanics, etc), services or recreation opportunities , how can we encourage them to chose the Denali Borough over another potential location?

How can we make it easier for them to take the leap?

How can we help them be successful and have longevity?

These aren’t easy questions to answer right now. We need to make headway on this issue, through addressing our housing, workforce and partnership avenues - but also through data, conversations and connections.

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Although using Borough lands for decvelopment is relatively recent to the Denali Borough operations, I believe we are moving in the right direction. The partnerships mentioned above, and many others, have already resulted in forward progress for recreation, safety, and community planning.

There are additional avenues for us to explore and plan for. Remember - what is planned for today, often isn’t implemented or created for years to come. Continuing to have forward focused vision will ensure we have the ability to capitalize on opportunities as they arise, as funding becomes available and as the communities of the Denali Borough grow and change.

The planning commission, Community & Outdoor Recreation committee, and the Community Development Director position all help identify and work toward the goal of foresight and planning. Ensuring they have the resources they need to continue, broaden and succeed in their missions in invaluable. Finding ways to successfully educate and engage the public continues to be a challenge and sometimes creates bottle necks with Borough operations and planning.

Having an advancement strategy which aligns growth with responsible development, through logically staged work is important. Ensuring public attention DURING these planning phases to eliminate back tracking and redundancy is critical. For example, despite years of discussion and planning for district wide addressing, many people were still caught unaware.