Don Gilman first came to Alaska in 1968 with his wife, Nikki, and their two small sons Bradley and Blaine in tow.
The man who would go on to serve two lengthy periods as mayor of the Kenai Peninsula Borough with a stint in the Alaska Senate in between began his Alaska career as an educator, serving as principal of Susan B. English School in Seldovia. He and Nikki, also a teacher, later moved to Seward to teach high school. He served as education director of the Alaska Skill Center in Seward from 1970 through 1976.
It was while serving on the Seward Planning Commission and on the State Planning Committee in the early 1970s that Gilman decided to run for elected public office. He won his very first political campaign and assumed the borough mayor's job in 1975. He would hold that job for five years until resigning after winning an election to the Alaska Senate.
According to information compiled by the borough, while mayor, Gilman oversaw and managed construction of several schools, including Seward High School, Bartlett School in Tyonek, Anchor Point Elementary School, Tustumena Elementary School, Sterling Elementary School, Homer High School, Soldotna High School and Soldotna Elementary School, plus construction of the Kenai Peninsula Borough School Warehouse and Central Peninsula General Hospital.
He established the Public Works Department of the borough to administer and coordinate borough construction projects and created a system of accounts establishing various segregated funds to account for all receipts and expenditures of the borough, as well as borough investment policies.
Elected to the Alaska Senate in 1980, he served there until 1984 through the 12th and 13th Alaska Legislatures.
He worked on major municipal issues, helped establish the Municipal Revenue Sharing Fund, passed legislation allowing municipalities to create road service areas and established the Kenai River as a special management area unit of the Alaska State Parks. In 1984, he decided not to seek re-election.
In 1987, he ran for and won another term in the borough mayor's office and was re-elected twice, in 1990 and 1993. In all, Gilman served as mayor for 14 years.
During his second stint as mayor, he led the borough's response to the Exxon Valdez oil spill, helped establish the Cook Inlet Regional Citizens Advisory Council and established the Kenai River Center in Soldotna, to name just a few items on a long list of his accomplishments and initiatives.
In a 1997 resolution honoring Gilman for his service, the Alaska Legislature noted that Gilman had been "instrumental in improving the lives, surroundings and safety of all peninsula residents."
Among many other accomplishments, Gilman was largely responsible for establishing the borough's Local Emergency Planning Commission and a boroughwide emergency response plan, the Legislature noted.
He also helped establish business relationships between Alaska, Asia and the Russian Far East.
He chaired the Kenai Peninsula United Way campaign and was a sponsor of the Caring for the Kenai contest. He served as honorary co-host of the Kenai River Classic for several years.
Gilman was born in Long Creek, Ore., on April 20, 1934.
His wife, Joyce L. "Nikki" Gilman, and their two sons, Blaine and Bradley, and six grandchildren survive him.
Immediate members of the family were in transit to Arizona and not available for comment.
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