Does it ever seem like the same bunch of people does everything that needs to be done? Like a couple of dozen folks run local government and the chambers of commerce and the nonprofit agencies around the peninsula? Like the same people pack the audience for community events? Like it's hard to find a place to serve because those places are locked up?
Recent interest in the school board and Soldotna mayoral seats, left vacant when Mike Chenault and Ken Lancaster were elected to the state House of Representatives, may help change those perceptions.
Twelve candidates from all over the borough applied for Chenault's school board seat. Ultimately, the board selected Seward resident Sandra P. "Sandy" Wassilie to serve. All of the applicants were described as well qualified; the board wisely opted to pick someone from Seward to better serve that portion of the Kenai Peninsula.
Five candidates are currently running to replace Lancaster as Soldotna mayor: Michael Beals, David Carey, Kristin Lambert, John Smallwood and Kearlee Wright. That's a big field of candidates -- especially considering that often incumbents fail to attract any opponents during regular elections.
The number of applicants for the school board seat and the number of mayoral candidates -- as well as the large crowd at this week's Soldotna Chamber of Commerce forum to hear the candidates -- indicate residents care about their community and want to be involved in shaping its future.
Holding public office isn't easy. It takes a lot of time. A person has to have broad shoulders and thick skin. Meetings replace favorite pastimes. Thick paper-filled agenda packets become required reading material.
It's hard to understand why someone would willingly volunteer for such duty until one considers the ultimate reward of public service: having a hand in shaping the destiny of one's home. Those who choose to serve have a broad goal: leaving their community better than they found it.
During Tuesday's mayoral forum, one candidate decried the lack of public participation at public meetings. Although he has a valid point, interest in the recent open seats may be a sign that those times are changing.
The public needs to understand holding public office isn't the only way to play a valuable role in one's community: those who hold office need guidance from their constituents. One of the first places that guidance is provided is in the voting booth.
We encourage Soldotna residents to take an active role in shaping their community by getting to know the mayoral candidates and casting their votes in the special Feb. 27 election. Hats off to all the mayoral candidates and the recent applicants for school board. Here's hoping the interest in public office will inspire others to also get involved.
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