He doesn't advertise in the newspaper or post gaudy billboards. He doesn't make commercials bad-mouthing fellow community members or solicit votes with phone calls. He just goes ahead and serves the community.
He might be found at the Clam Shell Lodge, sitting on a stool drinking a bottle of root beer, reading the newspaper and greeting the locals by prefixing their names with "Brother" or "Sister."
While he sips his root beer, dogs will timidly advance into the bar to sneak a treat from him.
In his pockets, he always carries a few dog biscuits for dogs and Tootsie Pops for children and friends.
Of course, "neither one can vote for me," Tom Patmor said.
But that doesn't really matter. "Brother Tom" Patmor -- clad in his favorite purple T-shirt and cap, which match his purple cabin and purple Lincoln with the "BROTOM" license plates -- already is the unofficial mayor of Clam Gulch, as well as a minister and the Clam Gulch volunteer fire chief.
Patmor became a key player in Clam Gulch when he moved there 24 years ago. He retired five years ago after 32 years with the Fairbanks Laborers Local No. 942.
Patmor offers his services to anyone in need.
"When you say 'help,' he is in his truck," said 40-year resident Joe Burger.
Troy Johnson, a 15-year resident, disagreed.
"You don't have to even say 'help' and he'll show up."
Such as when he goes to the hub of the community -- the Clam Shell Lodge -- and loads the lodge's trash into his truck on a dump run. Or when he takes mail to the post office for the owner of the lodge, who is a senior and suffers from health problems.
When resident Sharene Christensen broke her leg, Patmor came to her house and chopped wood for her. And she wasn't the only one; he has provided similar services to others who were unable to perform physical tasks.
He has even spent his own money on a volunteer fire department and to bail locals out of jail.
"He will give you the shirt off his back," Burger said. "That's the whole story."
Patmor is definitely a character, and he has it in writing to prove it.
He's sent many letters to different companies, bureaucracies and government leaders, ranging from asking Tootsie Roll Industries Inc. to continue its banana flavor to requesting former President Bill Clinton to stop being a bad influence on children by drinking martinis on television.
The community Patmor serves is situated on the bluff overlooking Cook Inlet between Miles 114 and 124 of the Sterling Highway.
Clam Gulch has a population of 173. It is not technically a city or town. Clam Gulch is considered a census designated place.
It also, technically, does not have a mayor. But technicalities aren't really Patmor's concern, as he is the third mayor to serve in Clam Gulch, according to residents. He said people started calling him mayor between 10 and 15 years ago.
Patmor joked about the Clam Gulch business district consisting of the Clam Shell Lodge -- a motel, bar and restaurant (open in the summer) -- and the post office. Additionally, there is Wayside Groceries and Clam Gulch Storage and Repair Services.
Although there is no formal city government, many residents rely on their community members to induce political action when it is called for.
"People like their anonymity," Clam Shell Lodge bartender Ulysses Marshall said about those living in Clam Gulch.
This may be why many turn to Patmor to get jobs done.
Weaving through bureaucracies to accomplish a change can be a difficult task, but there is always some way to get around the red tape, Patmor said.
"You have to try a different way if you can't get results one way."
Tom Patmor, right, sips his root beer while visiting with bartender Erika Baxter at the Clam Shell Lodge in Clam Gulch.
Photo by M. Scott Moon
One example of his political persistence is when Clam Gulch community members decided safety changes needed to be made along the Sterling Highway, which runs through the community.
In March 1997, a meeting was held at the Clam Shell Lodge with the Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities to discuss possible changes. Before the meeting, Patmor sent a petition with 35 signatures to DOT proposing a no-passing zone; reducing the speed limit to 45 mph; placing pedestrian signs; and moving the Clam Gulch community limits signs closer to the business area.
DOT claimed Alaska State Troopers said there were not enough calls for them to initiate the changes, and the proposals were not warranted because the stretch of road was straight and provided adequate driver vision, Patmor said.
However, he said he knew the road changes were needed because he was the one who dealt with accidents.
"The troopers don't know what goes on out here," he said. "When people go off the road, they call me."
He contacted both former Lt. Gov. Fran Ulmer and the Kenai Peninsula Borough asking them to request changes. But he was still turned down.
Finally, Patmor took action.
The Clam Gulch beach access road had pedestrian signs not used during the winter because the road is not accessible.
"They would do more good on the highway," Patmor said. "I stuck them in the snowbank along the side of the highway."
But it wasn't a permanent fix.
"As soon as the snow melted, the signs would fall."
However, Patmor did make a permanent mark with his paintbrush. Residents awoke one morning to a no-passing zone in front of the post office.
Eventually, DOT put in the pedestrian signs and made a no-passing zone.
When it came to changing the speed limit, though, Patmor literally took matters into his own hands: He attempted to enforce it with rotten eggs.
"Trucks were passing at 80 mph, passing pedestrians an inch from their elbows," he said.
He told troopers, but they didn't have the staff to watch for speeders.
"Rotten eggs do the job of tickets," he said.
The last time he threw a rotten egg at a speeding vehicle, he was caught and fined $35. When he went to court, he was hoping the judge would have troopers give more time to the community. It didn't happen, he said.
He contacted DOT and had them bring an electronic traffic speed monitor to the area for almost seven weeks, though it wasn't permanent, it did reduce speeding at the time.
Patmor also has worked with the community to improve the Clam Gulch beach access road by getting it grated and the potholes filled.
Currently, he is trying to change the position of a culvert along the highway that he believes was placed in a bad position when Marathon Oil contractors put in a road to the gas pad.
"It was an honest mistake," he said.
If people are riding snowmachines along the highway, they would hit a ditch, he said.
"They will have a rude awakening."
Patches the dog mugs Patmor for a treat as Patmor walks through the parking lot of the Clam Shell Lodge last week. "I usually carry doggie biscuits for the dogs and Tootsie Pops for the kids," Patmor said.
Photo by M. Scott Moon
As with many mayors, politics are a concern to Patmor. The state is not using its money on small communities, he said.
"(Politicians) hide in Juneau," he said.
During a legislative session there are not enough hotel rooms available for citizens to stay, so it makes it difficult for Alaskans to know what is going on, Patmor said.
"We can't throw eggs or tomatoes at them, because there is no way to stay there."
He has written dozens of letters to legislators through the years.
"Somebody needs to stick up for (Clam Gulch)," he said. "I got a knack for cramming all I need to say into 50 words."
Perhaps it comes from writing sermons. Patmor has been a minister for the Universal Life Church Inc. since 1981.
"My house is like Grand Central Station," he said of community members dropping by to drink coffee and converse.
The Universal Life Church used to meet in a trailer he had in the front yard, but now Patmor's purple log cabin, which he built, is able to accommodate most of its members.
The congregation includes members from throughout the peninsula.
It not only meets on Sundays but also is open to "PTL" any day of the week, he said. PTL has nearly 400 meanings, which members coined during their meetings, he explained.
The most commonly known came from TV evangelist Jim Baker's definition, "Praise the Lord."
However, to name a few, the peninsula church has added: "Pass the lettuce," "Pass to the left," "Polish the Lincoln," "Pay the lawyer," "Pardon the language," "Pass the light," "Pollute the liver," "Paint the line" and "Party through life."
Gospel is not the only thing preached at the church; many different ideas are spoken, ranging from religion to politics.
Patmor does not enforce his beliefs on the fellowship. Instead, he guides people to think for themselves, he said.
"Just because you are born Catholic, doesn't mean you have to be your whole life."
He encourages parents to let their children experiment with different religions and ideas, so the children can choose what best suits their individuality.
Patmor performed four weddings last summer.
"I gave them all my condolences," he said, with a smile.
Until the government starts investing in communities like Clam Gulch, Patmor said he and his congregation will play with ideas to finance a recreation center.
The closest playground is eight miles away at Tustumena Elem-entary School.
The kids in Clam Gulch are playing in the post office parking lot, Patmor said.
Patmor's passion for his community also is evident by another role he plays.
Near the highway rests the Clam Gulch volunteer fire truck, which he designed after becoming fire chief.
It is fire truck No. 2; a Ford F-250 pickup, with a trailer hauling a 210 gallon tank, with a three-horsepower Briggs and Stratton motor.
This is an upgrade from fire truck No. 1 -- two red barrels with the ends welded together, pulled by a three-wheeler.
Aside from assisting with controlled burns, Patmor said the fire truck has never been used.
He cannot protect the forest areas without road access, but he can help the accessible cabins and help with ditch fires during dry months.
"I am not qualified to be a fire chief, but the whole area needs protection," he said.
Patmor registered for a volunteer fire department with the Alaska State Fire Marshals. With his own money and time he has made it work, but he wants better service for Clam Gulch.
"No one takes our fire department seriously," he said. "It's hard to get volunteers together."
He would like the community to have its own fire service district. Taxes would increase, but homeowners' insurance would go down, he said.
"So it would even out, and we would have fire protection."
Patmor thinks it would be worth it to have a real fire truck and emergency medical technician close to town.
"From what I hear, people are in favor," he said.
At this point, he is looking into grants and donations to help support a volunteer fire department.
Every penny helps. In fact, Patmor has made some interesting points with pennies.
He started buying $50 bags of pennies in his quest to find a 1943 copper penny. He would sift through the mass one roll at a time.
But what does a person do with hundreds of dollars in pennies?
Pay bills. He started paying his utility bills in loose pennies.
"Management moaned and groaned," Patmor said, until managers made a policy not to accept loose change.
It is a federal law that no one can refuse legal tender, though, he said.
He and the utility company were able to iron out their differences, he said.
But it didn't stop him from paying his federal income tax in pennies.
"I use every right I got, and then some."
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