J.R. Myers jokingly calls himself Heinz 57. As in, he's made up of 57 varieties.
Among a cross-section of ethnicities, he's a Sephardic Jew, Native American and Northern European.
When talking to Myers about his candidacy for Soldotna's Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly seat -- he's running against Linda Murphy -- Myers inevitably comes back to the need for diversity.
"This borough is huge. It's the size of Massachusetts. People think it's all homogeneous, but it's really not," Myers said. "We have a diverse cross section of people who have chosen to make this place their home."
Myers believes everyone on the borough needs representation. He refers to himself as an "agent of change."
"That means that sometimes systems go for awhile on inertia," Myers said. "But the standard response is no longer effective and systems need to be adaptive."
Myers wonders why local leaders aren't discussing closer connections with Anchorage, a tri-borough transportation system and alternative sources of energy.
"We need to start now. We can't sit around and wait to build some pipeline in the sky," Myers said. "Why don't we do something that's going to matter?"
Myers sees himself as the voice that can introduce this type of dialogue to the assembly.
Of course, Myers doesn't take lightly the decision to run for the assembly. He's a private person, who would not allow the Clarion inside his cabin off Mackey Lake Road. He's also spent debates and candidate forums arguing against the need for candidates to file financial disclosure forms.
"It's giving yourself to others," he says of public service. Myers said he's willing to step into the public arena because he believes it's a sacrifice needed to help guide the borough in the right direction.
"I'm not going to buy all that B.S. If they purport something to be what it's not, I'm going to say the emperor has no clothes. That's what I do and that's what I will continue to do," Myers said.
Myers works as an emergency mental health professional, which means he's always a phone call away from dealing with someone who might be suicidal, for instance.
So he uses his downtime to "recharge." He prefers to stay in his cabin blogging, chopping firewood or tending to his bees, which he keeps less for their honey production and more to provide an environment in which they can survive. He was a member of the Alaskan Independence Party, but he recently severed ties there after deciding he didn't agree with its direction for the state.
Myers moved back to Alaska seven years ago after spending much of his life in Montana and likes the state because it's still a place where he can be a pioneer.
But Myers laughed when putting up plastic roofing above an outdoor workspace outside his cabin this week and said, "Please don't make fun of my carpentry skills."
He's less interested in being a sort of homesteading pioneer and more interested in being a "social pioneer."
"People don't know where to go, and I don't think government's always the answer," Myers said. "People need to come together and become voices for change in the community."
Andrew Waite can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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