Take just a moment to visualize driving one December weekend evening toward the Sterling Highway. Your vehicle is filled with your spouse, your college-aged son and friends that have returned for the holidays. As you approach the stoplight at Trustworthy, you feel the holiday spirit in the lights decorating the trees now lining the highway between the bridge and the Y.
You quickly stop at Target, then swing by the Peninsula Center Mall to pick up the sweater your daughter has been wanting from Old Navy. It takes longer than you had planned because the new selections of shops at the mall are full of holiday shoppers that no longer shop in Anchorage. You thread past a long line of children waiting to see Santa. You greet neighbors on the way out to Soldotna Creek Park.
You spot your senior parents at the park. They are waiting over by the bandstand behind the bonfire. A local string quartet is playing Christmas songs. You hug your folks and together walk over to the warm-up shack with your family. You notice the parking lot filling and realize you have an hour to skate before the town tree is lit for the holiday season. With family and senior activities available, folks no longer spend all winter in front of the television.
You meet a family of tourists at the tree lighting. The few visitors that choose to experience the holidays in small town Alaska help local lodges, restaurants, shops and hotels to remain open all year.
You are in Soldotna in the not-so-distant future. The city elected a Mayor with a vision to work with residents and the administration to draw new investment to town. Ordinances unfair to new businesses were revised and citizens enjoy being in control of responsible future development. The population has not increased and the city now has a warm, small town feel.
The choice to diversify allowed the city to fully fund municipal government without raising property taxes. In fact, there was enough left over to rejuvenate City savings and to fund activities such as the skating enjoyed at the park, a teen program and additional senior programs.
Your son informs you that he'll be moving home after graduation to a good position he accepted at CPH. His fianc was also able to secure a job at the new Forestry facility at the airport.
You remember having a choice back in '08 to either vote for positive planning and change with hope for the future, or to vote for the fear of change. You chose hope and never looked back.
As Andrew Carnegie once said, "Teamwork is the ability to work together toward a common vision. It is the fuel that allows common people to attain uncommon results."
We have new teamwork and energy in Soldotna, an excellent new city manager, a talented city planner, and scores of optimistic citizens willing to raise Soldotna to the next level. Is there a single resident of Soldotna that can look deep within and not admit there are areas we can improve in our great city?
At his retirement this summer, Tom Boedeker commented that Soldotna is a different city than the city he began serving 12 years ago. I agree. I lived here in the early '80s when there was not a single Soldotna stoplight. We watched much of Soldotna's commercial corridor carved from the forest during that same period.
Believing we can keep time and progress in a bottle without anticipating inevitable change is simply not realistic and has brought about negative impacts such as the Timber Wolf Condos and a lack of protective planning for the Kenai River; our most valuable natural asset.
I felt it important to write to help you visualize one of the many key issues identified in my plan toward a balanced Soldotna. Please feel free to contact me at 252-6759 or at email@example.com if you'd like to sit down to discuss other issues.
I love Soldotna. My wife, Erin and I will remain to raise our family and want our children to remain, as well. I am excited to have the opportunity to help guide Soldotna, not as a figurehead, but as a community servant willing to work hard for our future. Fear the results of voting to remain stagnant, not the positive changes coming our way if you join those supporting me as Mayor on October 7th.
Oh, and have your skates sharpened. You'll be needing them.
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