I’ve been honored and blessed to serve as the Mayor of Soldotna. I’ve enjoyed the support of Soldotna constituents, as well as active participation in the city process by community members from the greater Soldotna area. Being somewhat new to serving as an elected representative, I have learned many valuable lessons over the past three years.
I’ve learned much about what can be accomplished when folks don’t initially agree. The source of one of the richest learning experiences was the process that resulted in the Soldotna Community Memorial Park.
We struggled for years. People fought for their beliefs. They worked within a system toward a solution. I assembled a team to design a memorial park at the Redoubt Avenue site. The committee was intentionally made up of folks that had not spoken for quite some time due to disagreements about the location of the park.
The first meeting was quiet and guarded as we described the process. As the meetings progressed, people began to share personal stories about loss. Some had lost children at a young age; others a spouse, parent or close friend. The group eventually began sharing laughter and tears as common ground was discovered.
I will never forget what gave me the most personal satisfaction during the fourth meeting. The two individuals with the most differences were standing over the rough drawing of the facility, looking directly at one another and excitedly admiring our Memorial Park that they were creating.
The primary lesson I learned was that the best product possible for the Soldotna Community Memorial Park was the fruit of common ground discovered amongst those that were previously divided. Respectful debate proved to provide a path to the best possible answer; a lesson I will never forget.
We’ve living in an exciting time in the City of Soldotna, which we’ve coined “the heart of the Kenai”. The phrase describes Soldotna as a distribution point for access, social and cultural wealth, recreational activities and a source of revenue positively affecting all of our Kenai Peninsula neighbors.
In the past three years, we have enjoyed many accomplishments including:
- Our financial house is now in order with perfect financial audits for three years in a row.
- We have reduced the cost of operating Soldotna while maintaining a healthy fund balance.
- We have reduced the property tax rate in Soldotna by 30% for the first reduction in a generation.
- We have diversified our commissions to represent the diverse demographics of our community.
- We have encouraged organizations to install privately funded projects at no cost to the city, such as the Soldotna Community Playground and the Aspen Dog Park.
- We have placed protections for our commercial zone in our ordinances…there will never be another Timber Wolf project.
- We have collaborated with agencies to protect the Kenai River and formalized our support for the Kenai Watershed Forum through the Soberg House agreement.
- We completed the Soldotna Community Memorial Park and can now preserve our history forever, right here at home.
- We have hired talented, specifically-educated and extremely competent staff.
- We have reached out to educate our residents with the Popular Annual Financial Report.
- We’ve teamed up with the Chamber to educate our residents about the value of shopping at home, and
- We have finally published Envision2030, Soldotna’s comprehensive Plan.
Yet, we have much to do in moving our city forward to ensure a quality, sustainable community. Primary processes include:
- Updating our code to better define expectations for those that want to conduct business in the City.
- Actively supporting the conservation of our watersheds by providing incentives for those making the right conservation choices.
- Evaluating solutions for the relocation of Soldotna’s Kenai river wastewater outfall.
- Prioritizing the objectives of our comprehensive plan into a strategic action plan.
- Evaluating the recreational needs of our community.
- Evaluating the need for Soldotna to become a home rule city.
- Assessing which types of new business will compliment existing businesses.
- Evaluating a teen recreational facility.
- Identifying public safety gaps to get people safely to and from facilities throughout the city.
- Improving new and aging infrastructure in residential and commercial zones, and
- Evaluating ways to operate more efficiently, including partnerships with other municipalities.
Again, this is an exciting time to be involved with all of the incredible things happening in Soldotna. I hope I have performed to your expectations and have your confidence to lead our community. We have much to do to continue laying the groundwork for generations into the future and I would be honored to help guide those efforts as your Mayor.
I would appreciate your vote on October 4th.