In a move that shocked his colleagues at City Hall, Homer Mayor James Hornaday abruptly resigned his office Tuesday and withdrew from the Oct. 7 municipal election, filing a letter with the city clerk's office stating, "As the Scriptures tell us, there is a time for every season, and the time has come."
City Clerk Jo Johnson confirmed Wednesday that her office had received the letter and had informed all city council members and City Manager Walt Wrede, who was in Anchorage on city business, of the news.
Hornaday's current term as mayor was due to run out next month. At the council's Oct. 20 meeting, the election winner is scheduled to be sworn in for a new two-year term. With less than three weeks to go until the election, it's too late to pull Hornaday's name off the ballot, according to the clerk's office, as they have already been printed. Current council member Mike Heimbuch is the only other candidate in the race.
Council member Barbara Howard said she last talked to Hornaday on Sept. 8 and he seemed in good spirits at that time.
"We talked about his dog and walking on the beach ... just normal things. I had no clue that he was considering this," said Howard. "He needs to rethink it. He has added so much value to the community. He's almost a legend. I wish he would come back to participate through the rest of his term and give the people a chance to say goodbye to him and thank him for his service."
Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly member Milli Martin has known Hornaday for more than 20 years and considers him a close friend. She said she was "stunned" when she heard the news.
"I think people will be very much surprised. He has an awful lot of respect in the community and is very, very much admired. I'm not quite sure how that will play out with his name still on the ballot," she said.
Heimbuch said that he saw Hornaday driving in his vehicle Wednesday morning in downtown Homer and he smiled and waved.
"I don't have any idea what his motives are. I hope he's fine," said Heimbuch. "I know that there has been some tension in the last few meetings about the budget and the capital improvement project list and it has bothered him."
Since the council's Aug. 25 meeting, during which they received a grim report on the city's revenue projections from finance director Regina Harville, Hornaday has remarked several times that they would likely have to scale back their spending on capital improvement projects.
Council member Dennis Novak currently holds the position of mayor pro tem and will run the council's next meeting Monday night. According to Johnson, the council will decide at that that meeting who among them will serve the remainder of Hornaday's term.
"We're reviewing our requirements with the city attorney. It's possible that I'll just continue along until the election is certified. That seems like the reasonable thing to do," said Novak.
Hornaday was elected mayor in 2004 after serving on both the Homer City Council and the Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly, winning 61 percent of the vote in a four-way race to succeed then-Mayor Jack Cushing, and was re-elected in 2006. He has lived in Alaska since 1964 and served as an Alaska District Court judge after many years of practicing law in Kenai.
"I am both humbled and excited and want to thank all the candidates who ran," said Hornaday shortly after the 2004 election. "I honor people who put their names on the line. It takes a lot of guts to stick your neck out there."
Hornaday was unavailable to comment for this story.
Aaron Selbig can be reached at email@example.com.
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