Candidates Beth Wythe and Bryan Zak vie for the mayor’s seat, following Mayor Jim Hornaday’s decision to not seek another term.
Wythe has served on the Homer City Council since 2004. She is the longest-serving member, and serves as Mayor Pro Temp. She is the Human resources Manager at Homer Electric Association
Zak is director of the Small Business Development Center, and has served on the council since 2008.
Both candidates were asked to respond to some questions, with their answers below.
Q: How do you view the mayor of Homer’s role in leading city government?
Bryan Zak: I see the role of the mayor of Homer in leading the local government by ensuring the City of Homer is partnering with its state representatives, Borough Assemblymen, and other communities on the Kenai Peninsula and through the Alaska Municipal League to all of the communities throughout Alaska to provide city services and to create a positive living environment for its citizens. Included in this role and following in the huge footsteps of our four-term Mayor Jim Hornaday is to continue to respect, listen and advocate for our citizens. I see five documents as the foundation from which to lead. These are: the CEDS (comprehensive development strategy, the comprehensive plans (2), the climate action plan, and the annual budget).
Beth Wythe: From my perspective, the primary function of the mayor is to provide leadership. The mayor represents the interests of Homer within the community and on the regional, state and national levels. The mayor also acts as a host to visiting government dignitaries, visitors from our sister cities and other groups. In addition, the Mayor runs the Council meetings making sure that all council members and the community are heard.
Q: Aside from the Homer Area Natural Gasline, how do you identify the biggest issues facing the Homer City Council in the year ahead?
Zak: Using the five documents that I previously mentioned and additional public input is how I intend to identify the biggest issues facing the Homer City Council in the years ahead. Not listed in these five documents but important to many residents are issues of concern that because they will impact the local economy should be a concern of the city council. One of these issues is the North Pacific Fishery Management Councils proposed “Catch Sharing Plan”. If the City of Seward, and Rep. Paul Seaton weighed in on this issue then my question would then be why would the Homer City Council not consider taking a stand?
Wythe: Addressing the impact that the economy is having on our community will continue to be a sizable task. The downturn in the economy is impacting Homer’s tourist-based businesses. Exploring undeveloped and under-developed economic opportunities is going to be very important to Homer’s financial stability. The Economic Development Commission was reactivated several years ago and is beginning to pursue what the economy of the future may look like for Homer. As mayor, I will continue to support the active pursuit of economic development that will bring business and jobs to Homer, but also fits with the sensibilities of our diverse community. It is unreasonable to act like we are not going to grow and change, so it becomes even more important that the community take an active role in determining how it is done.
Q: Considering Homer has the highest taxes (sales and property combined) on the Kenai Peninsula, how do you see the role of city government to mitigate the high cost of living?
Zak: I see the natural gas line and the city’s role in its full development as the catalyst that will immediately mitigate and will continue long term to mitigate the high cost of living in Homer and the surrounding area. The gas line will start a chain reaction sparking the local economy by encouraging more business and residents to move to Homer, which will then drive down the current high water and sewer costs as more customers will equate to lower rates for all.
The city’s comprehensive development plan lists basic and non-basic economic drivers and the city government needs to take a larger role in partnering with community stakeholders to create a strong climate for all of these combined economic drivers.
A few methods would be to support and partner with community stakeholders such as the Homer Chamber of Commerce and their “buy local” campaign, the Pratt Museum and their “capital project”, the Homer Senior Citizens and their five year plan, the South Peninsula Hospital, and bringing before the voters a bond issue to build a convention center.
Wythe: Homer needs sustainable commerce that provides employees with earnings that are equal to the cost of living here. We need affordable housing for young families; we need more users on our existing water and sewer infrastructure to reduce service costs; and the list goes on. None of these things are possible without adopting an “open for business” attitude and actively soliciting the types of commerce that can thrive in this area.
Q: As Homer sees more oil and gas development in the area, is there a role city government can play to advocate for the citizens and their questions?
Zak: This question is very similar to the one that I already answered with regards to “What is the cities role regarding the proposed catch sharing plan”. My belief is there is a role that city government should play to advocate for citizens and to listen to and advocate for their concerns and questions.
Wythe: The Council can, and often does, provide a forum for the public to learn more about what is going on with different kinds of development in the area by having developers present information as visitors to the meeting. Not all community members have a single opinion regarding oil and gas development. There are many members of our community that make their living working in the oil and gas industry and they deserve to be represented just as much as those opposed to oil and gas development in our area. The Council should work to find and support the common ground. We are very excited to have a natural gas line brought to Homer, but not as excited to have natural gas found in the area. If gas were found locally it has the potential of being delivered at a lower cost, that should be just as exciting.
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