Former Soldotna Mayor Ken Lancaster's election to the Alaska House of Representatives last November resulted in two empty local government seats. Soldotna residents recently filled one of them when they elected council member David Carey to fill Lancaster's shoes as city mayor.
On Wednesday, the Soldotna City Council selected Mike Tarr to take Carey's place on the council until elections in October.
Shortly before Wednesday's regularly scheduled city council meeting, Tarr and Jim Fisher, who also expressed an interest in serving on the council, had an opportunity to make a presentation to and answer questions from the council.
Tarr, who is employed as the manager for the Federal Aviation Administration's Kenai Flight Service, said his community involvement has included working with Little League teams and serving on the board of directors for the Challenger Learning Center. He also serves on the city's airport commission.
"I even ran for city council once," said Tarr, who has been in Alaska since 1977 and lived on the peninsula since 1991. Laughing, he added, "Unsuccessfully."
"I believe in community service, and I believe in community planning," said Tarr, who characterized Soldotna as a "family community."
During questioning by council members, Tarr was asked his view of the convention and banquet facility being planned by the city that is expected to carry a price tag of $3.5 to $4 million.
"I think it's a great example of responsible development," Tarr said. "You have to spend money to make money. It will not only be good for Soldotna, it will be good for the whole area."
Concerning the private prison project currently being developed by the Kenai Peninsula Borough, Tarr agreed with the opposition that the Soldotna City Council has expressed.
"It would be better if the state would build it," Tarr said. Pointing to wages and benefits available to state employees, Tarr said he does not believe a private operator could match those offered by the state.
The greatest challenge facing Soldotna in the future, according to Tarr, is "the same one facing communities across the state -- developing a cross-gender, cross-age infrastructure to attract people and keep them here."
Tarr said increasing employment, recreation and education opportunities would "keep good people here. Not lose them."
Through his involvement with the Soldotna airport, Tarr said opportunities exist to develop the airport into a revenue generator for the central peninsula community.
Scoring four of five council members' votes, Tarr was sworn in by City Clerk Pat Burdick. He took his new seat amid well wishes offered by those in the room, including Fisher.
"I think he will do a good job, and I liked his answers to their questions," Fisher said. "I thought when they asked for suggestions for the future that he took a broader view than I did."
Fisher said he does not have his sights set on running for the council seat in the October election. Instead, Fisher will continue his public service through involvement with the Kenai Peninsula Food Bank, the Soldotna Historical Society and Museum and the Kenai Peninsula Bar Association, among others.
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