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Librarian fired after 28 years, locals protest

Posted: April 11, 2013 - 8:37pm  |  Updated: April 12, 2013 - 8:21am
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Photo by Rashah McChesney/Peninsula Clarion Sharen Sleater, of Soldotna, wipes away tears during community testimony about the recent firing of Soldotna's librarian Wednesday April 10, 2013 during the Soldotna City Council Meeting in Soldotna, Alaska.  More than 50 people attended the meeting and spoke for more than an hour voicing their disapproval of the matter.
Photo by Rashah McChesney/Peninsula Clarion Sharen Sleater, of Soldotna, wipes away tears during community testimony about the recent firing of Soldotna's librarian Wednesday April 10, 2013 during the Soldotna City Council Meeting in Soldotna, Alaska. More than 50 people attended the meeting and spoke for more than an hour voicing their disapproval of the matter.

There were a lot of tears at Wednesday’s Soldotna City Council meeting.

For more than an hour, residents of Soldotna, Kenai and Nikiski took turns castigating the city manager and council for the surprise termination of Soldotna Public Library director Terri Burdick.

Several common themes wove through the public testimony that came from friends, family, former library employees and patrons as they laughed over her exuberant costuming during story time, unwavering support of the library as a hub of the community and their shock and disappointment with the way city manager Mark Dixson fired her.

Several, including Burdick, questioned why the 28-year city employee was fired without being given a reason.

“I’ve been on the library board for quite awhile,” said Marge Hays, of Soldotna. “I realize that people that know anything about this can’t say anything, so we’re sort of in the dark. Legally, it may be the right thing to do, but we do want to stand up for a lovely woman who has done an awfully good job as the library director.”

Since Burdick’s dismissal Monday she said she has struggled with embarrassment and despair.

“You can’t fight against that, but I feel sad. I do have so many people in the community that have felt that I’ve done a wonderful job for the library and that kind of stuff and to have somebody come in and treat me like this is kind of a low blow,” she said. “I haven’t even left my house because ... when people hear this from the newspaper or the radio they’re going to go, ‘Oh, sour apples.’ But, I haven’t done anything criminal to get fired.”

Dave Carey, President of the Friends of the Soldotna Library, said he was surprised and sad for the community when he heard of Burdick’s dismissal.

“I was concerned that Terri (wasn’t) being treated fairly and justly and that is still my concern,” he said.

Carey, like several other people in the audience, spoke of children in his family visiting the library because Burdick made them feel welcome.

“The world is not fair, but I want her treated fairly,” Carey said.

Lingering questions about the reasons for Burdick’s dismissal hung heavily on several people’s minds as the addressed the council; Burdick said the uncertainty of not knowing why she was fired has made coping with the situation more difficult. She, and several people who spoke in her defense, speculated that her lack of a library degree could have prompted the dismissal.

“I’ve said these words before, they’re kind of strong but, to me, it feels like the heart and soul of the library has been ripped out, it will never be the same again,” said Jeanette Pedginski. “Library directors are available out there with degrees, you can’t get a library degree in Alaska when you’re living here. You have to do it by correspondence — people don’t look well on correspondence degrees — or you have to leave the state. Not all of us have that opportunity, even if we had the desire, to leave the state to get a master’s degree in library science.”

Pedginski said she had worked for Burdick for two years and while the two had their differences, they had worked through them.

“That’s the problem that I have with this situation right now is, when you have a problem with somebody you work with ... even if it’s legal to fire for no cause, it’s morally wrong,” Pedginski said.

Others, like Rosie Reeder, said the city manager’s short time with the community did not compare to Burdick’s years of service.

“I’m upset that someone who has served as city manager for such a short time has taken it upon himself to let someone go that has given us 30 years of service,” Reeder said. “There are ways that things like this should be handled and I don’t think this was handled appropriately. I’m sure it was legal, in fact, I’m positive it was probably legal, but I don’t think it’s right.”

Dixson, who spoke after most of the public testimony, said he would not talk about the specifics of Burdick’s termination, but had not been aware that she did not have a degree.

“I struggled with it, it wasn’t made in a vacuum, it was made with the complete thought that I was going to see all of you people here this evening and I expected this,” Dixson said of his decision to fire the librarian.

Dixson said he was not, however, at peace with the process he was required to follow once he decided to terminate Burdick, a process several in the community characterized as disrespectful.

“It was the most horrifying experience that I have ever done in my life,” Dixson said.

Still, Dixson said he stood by his decision to fire the librarian.

“If you want to hate me for that, that’s fine,” he told the crowd. “I’m not paid to be popular, I’m paid to make decisions for the benefit of the city, its residents and its employees and I apologize that I’ve caused you such anguish.”

After the meeting Dixson said he contacted Carey and asked if the Friends of the Soldotna Library was willing to spearhead an effort to praise Burdick for her years of service.

Dixson said he was also happy with how respectful the community had been, despite their criticism of his decision.

“I’ve been in meetings before where people haven’t been respectful,” he said. “As county attorney back east, on several boards making decisions and giving unpopular advice, I’m used to it. I’ve been called every name in the book in public. These people, I thought, were very nice in their comments. I still say it’s a great community and it’s great that people come out and express their concerns and do it in a respectful and appropriate way.”

 

Rashah McChesney can be reached at rashah.mcchesney@peninsulaclarion.com

 

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Debbie.S
12
Points
Debbie.S 04/16/13 - 08:48 am
3
0
...and on the library degree

I did also want to point out that if the issue was that Ms. Burdick doesn't have a library degree, it would have been an excellent idea to offer her partial tuition for two years to help her get the qualification needed for the position. I worked on the majority of my MLIS degree while in Alaska and there are some excellent programs available almost entirely online. Rather than firing someone who doesn't have a preferred qualification it makes much more sense to help them achieve that qualification.

sparky
45
Points
sparky 04/16/13 - 02:23 pm
3
0
HUMANITY

I don't know Terri Burdick,but NO ONE deserves to be treated like this ! I think that Mr.Adolf Dixson needs to be replaced,while the City of Soldotna still has some dignity.
Who's Next ?

Suss
3226
Points
Suss 04/16/13 - 06:00 pm
1
0
SXQ Recall tips

The recall of any public official doesn't happen every day but it is most common at the local level. When city council members don't keep their constituents happy, often those constituents push for a recall. This is a complex process but can be achieved with enough support.

1
Submit the proper notifications. You'll have to publish something saying you're going to recall a city council member, have the notice served on the council member and give him a chance to respond.

2
Determine the length of time the city council member has been in office. Most states require at least 120 days of service if not 6 months or longer.

3
Explain why you want to recall the city council member. Many states have stated reasons a city council member can be recalled and your explanation must fit one of those categories.

4
Get the appropriate number of signatures. A recall will require a petition signed by a certain number of registered voters. Go door-to-door, start a website or phone campaign to get the number of signatures you need to recall a city council member.

5
Use the allotted time wisely. You'll only have a certain amount of time to collect signatures-usually 60 days or more-so use that time to your advantage to get the signatures you need.

Read more: How to Recall a City Council Member | eHow.com http://www.ehow.com/how_2096901_recall-city-council-member.html#ixzz2QgK...

Sam Von Pufendorf
1088
Points
Sam Von Pufendorf 04/16/13 - 07:35 pm
1
1
Recall

Since the City Manager is not an elected official, he/she is not subject to recall. However, petitioning the city council for his termination would be an option.
Prior to taking such measures, one must consider the full ramifications. What does his contract with the city provide for concerning termination? Will we be terminating a person based on a single action while other actions he has performed actually benefited the community? Are emotions going to dictate what is best or what would be a deteriment to the community.
I am aware the termination of Mrs Burdick was an unpopular decision, but we as yet do not have all of the facts or information.
In short, it is best to allow cooler heads to prevail.

Suss
3226
Points
Suss 04/17/13 - 07:11 am
1
0
Petition to Stop a City Action

The ability to petition to stop a city action is an important part of the democratic process. There are a couple of different approaches you can take to start a petition. Typically, city actions are ordinances or regulations proposed by city councils. Some city councils have petition forms available on the city council's website, while others merely supply address and contact information regarding where to send a petition. You can choose to create and submit a petition with just your signature, or you can create a petition and get it signed by people in your city who agree with your petition.

Instructions

1
Visit your city council's website. Your city council may have a petition form available for you to print and fill out.

2
Decide what you'd like to write on your petition. A good petition is well-written and describes the city action you're trying to stop. Research the city action with which you disagree and write a thoughtful response to why the action shouldn't be put into effect.

3
Consider whether you want to send the petition to your city council with just your signature or if you want to gather additional signatures. Typically, the petition forms offered on city council websites don't provide room for more than your signature. Visit your city council's website to determine whether a petition form is available and if it allows for additional signatures.

4
Visit a few petition websites. There are many websites offering free petition hosting. Often, this is the easiest way to create a petition, circulate it and gather signatures.

5
Choose a petition hosting website. Once you've decided which website you prefer, follow the instructions for creating a petition. Online petition forms offer a section for you to describe the action you're petitioning against. Additionally, these forms ask for the target of the petition; in this case, it's likely to be your city council.

6
Gather email addresses for potential signatures. You can send a link to your online petition in an email. The person receiving the email can click the link and be automatically directed to your petition. They can then sign it, if they support it. Once you've gathered signatures, you should print the petition. The printed version will include the petition and the signatures of those who chose to support the petition and sign it.

7
Mail the petition to your city council. Check your city council's website to obtain a mailing address. Some online petition websites offer the option of emailing the petition to a city council. You should contact the clerk of your city council and ask whether it has a preferred method for receiving petitions.

Tips & Warnings
Generally, a petition with multiple signatures carries more weight than a petition with just one backer.

Read more: How to Petition to Stop a City Action | eHow.com http://www.ehow.com/how_7539372_petition-stop-city-action.html#ixzz2QjXM...

Norseman
2919
Points
Norseman 04/17/13 - 07:12 am
2
0
I'll donate $100 to the

I'll donate $100 to the cause.

Suss
3226
Points
Suss 04/17/13 - 09:37 am
2
0
10% Voter Signature Required

Recall the one council member that was acting mayor, that allowed Terri to get "Dixsoned" to get their attention and then petition for rescinding the termination.

A petition to recall a council member requires signatures from 10% of the number of registered voters that had voted in the previous election. This does not mean you had to have voted in the last election, just that you are a registered voter in Soldotna. If the last election, the "Special" election counted, that vote total was 594, so 60 valid signatures would be needed, heck there was 50 at the meeting. They may require the October election for the count and those numbers were about the same. So to be safe 100 signatures would suffice.
SOLDOTNA CITY COUNCIL A SOL
Total
Number of Precincts 1
Precincts Reporting 1 100.0%
Times Counted 246/0
Total Votes 199

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

CZARNEZKI, John 185 92.96%
Write-in Votes 14 7.04%

SOLDOTNA CITY COUNCIL C SOL
Total
Number of Precincts 1
Precincts Reporting 1 100.0%
Times Counted 246/0
Total Votes 222

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

BAGELY, Dale L. 203 91.44%
Write-in Votes 19 8.56%

SOLDOTNA CITY COUNCIL E SOL
Total
Number of Precincts 1
Precincts Reporting 1 100.0%
Times Counted 246/0
Total Votes 204

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

EOFF, Nancy R. 190 93.14%
Write-in Votes 14 6.86%

kenaibear2001
119
Points
kenaibear2001 04/17/13 - 07:51 pm
4
0
Dixsoned

Many things occurred with politics on the Peninsula, and Soldotna in general, that has made me wonder, or even upset me at times. The way the removal of Terri Burdick was handled has me LIVID. (livid |ˈlivid| adjective
1 furiously angry:)

I would like the permit for the "tar and feather" kiosk at the next assembly meeting, OR, where do I send my $100 to mount whatever it takes to get rid of the yahoo who thinks he has the ability to be a CEO.

JAK
3
Points
JAK 04/18/13 - 07:06 am
1
1
sure she's a nice woman

First, I have to say that Terri was my favorite of the library employees. She is a very sweet woman.
Second, we all have no idea why she was let go. The city might have a very good reason, and it IS possible they are keeping it quiet to save embarrassment to her.
Third, it has shocked me how far behind the Soldotna library is compared to the rest of the country in terms of technology and online resources. When I have asked the library staff about when they plan to initiate an online database for instance, they actually have NO idea what I am talking about. This type of technology has been in place for at least 13 years that I know of and would be a huge benefit to the community. I do not know if perhaps Terri has tried to push for this, but it is possible that her lack of library training might have hindered this type of progress for our library.
My dad is a librarian, and I know firsthand just how many unemployed masters-degree-holding librarians are out there, trained in the latest technology and eager for work. It does seem to me that our city would be wise to hire such a person so that our city could benefit from their knowledge.

Jim Taylor
86
Points
Jim Taylor 04/18/13 - 08:25 am
2
1
Second dumb move

was to let Terri go. 28 years on the job. Shame on you. First dumb move was to hire a new york lawyer to run Soldotna. As a 54 year local resident my thoughts are the right move would be to reverse both of the previous moves.

Perception
10
Points
Perception 04/19/13 - 08:49 am
1
2
Reality

Fact: you do not need to know why she was fired. You are mad because they are not telling you. The direction of the library is going to be different and to make a shift, change has to happen. When there is change people freak! But change was deemed necessary. Deal with your own insecurities and do your job well enough that you won't lose it. Shift happens...move on!

Don Norton
27
Points
Don Norton 04/19/13 - 09:08 am
2
0
Librarian Fired

Sounds a little fishy to me that he will not give a reason for fireing her. Lets see who they get to replace her. If it is a friend or family member.
This woman was librarian when I used to go to the Soldotna library Then Dixson comes in as city manager as a greenhorn(sourdough) from the east coast and fires her in such a short time. I think Dixson has plans for that position.

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