Cathy Mayer has the final word at her farewell roast at the Elks Club in Soldotna.
The two major functions or powers of a second class borough in Alaska are to fund education and take care of solid waste in accordance with state regulations. All other government services are handled within 1st Class Municipalities or service areas formed by a vote of the people from a district outside of a city within the borough. For more than two decades Cathy Mayer has overseen the Borough’s solid waste programs as director. Earlier this month a large group of friends and colleagues gathered to bid farewell to a popular public servant who has seen the community through major transitions in the way we handle waste in the Borough. Early residents of the Borough commonly referred to the solid waste sites or dumps as The Exchange. “We’d take a load down and bring a load home. Heck Woody Jones at the end of Jones Stub Rd. use to brag that every piece of material in his house, which he called the Palace, came from the Exchange which just proved that one persons trash was another person’s treasure,” joked the emcee at Cathy’s farewell roast. But laws and regulations governing solid waste changed as the Borough developed and so did the solid waste sites.
Friends & colleagues gathered at the Elks club last week to bid farewell to one of their favorite community leaders.
The fact that Cathy Mayer served at the pleasure of 5 different Borough Mayors during her 22 year career is an accomplishment that speaks for itself. The fact that the Borough’s new solid waste facility today is considered a model for the State of Alaska and the lower 48 is also a tribute to Mayer’s vision and ability to build consensus in a vastly diversified community. To reduce and divert solid waste, Mayer pioneered recycling programs and organizations that have implemented change that has improved the Borough’s environment and quality of life. “The vision grew with the community as volunteer organizations and individuals came to the Borough and were willing to partner with us if the Borough would dedicate some funding for programs and that’s pretty much where our recycling programs started from. Communities from Seward to Homer formed their own non-profit groups and worked along side the Borough to get the programs started,” said Mayer.
Mayer estimates that the Borough has invested more than $20million dollars in capitol improvements to bring the Borough’s 8 solid waste sites to the standard they are at today and anticipates the newly lined central peninsula land fill will have some 50 years of life depending on population growth. “I want to point out that a lot of that was money that came to the Borough from the State and federal granting agencies such as the Denali commission, so a lot of our improvements have been paid for by other sources than the Borough tax payers,” said Mayer.
Shortly after her retirement roast Cathy headed out to Coeur d’Alene, Idaho where she will join her husband Ken and see what the future holds, “We’ll still be in the mountains with lakes and rivers similar to Alaska, so if we can’t be here it’ll be the next best thing. There are not a lot of landfills in that area so not too sure what I’ll be doing, but will wait and see what opportunities arise when I get there,” said Cathy.
Borough Mayor John Williams, former Borough Mayor Mike Navarre, and a host of colleagues paid a roasting tribute to their “Queen of Trash” at her farewell dinner at the Elks Lodge in Soldotna. Tim Navarre said that he had come to inform Cathy that she might learn at the boarder that the Assembly had rejected her resignation and that she wouldn’t be allowed to leave, but most agreed that they would only say “goodbye” because they couldn’t say “welcome home” until they first said farewell. Life on the Kenai is better because Cathy Mayer served us so well for so long.
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