By Naomi Klouda
James Dolma was appointed to the vacant Homer City Council Seat Monday night at the city council meeting. Members voted unanimously to seat him, over challenger Sharon Minsch.
Dolma is a case manager for The Center where he has worked 10 years, and is a former Homer Planning Commissioner. He also has served on many of Homer’s non-profits as a volunteer. He was immediately seated and sworn in.
In the City of Homer race for two city council seats, Dolma came in a fast third behind winner Beau Burgess, with 429 votes to Burgess’ 472, or 56 percent of the vote. Francie Roberts won 630 votes.
All the council members expressed appreciation for Minsch, a devoted and hardworking volunteer for many years on the city’s Advisory Planning Commission. Councilmembers Bryan Zak and Barbara Howard commented that Dolma’s showing on the ballot swayed them to appoint him to the seat made vacant by Mayor Beth Wythe’s win.
“The voters have the best of all worlds now because they have all three candidates they wanted,” Howard said.
Dolma told the council prior to the vote that he feels it’s important for people to step up to the plate.
“I don’t play piano and I don’t like to toot my horn,” Dolma said in letting the council get to know him. “I have lived without running water, electricity or indoor plumbing, and I must say it is both liberating and challenging,” he said. He can relate to rugged individuals and idealistic individualists as well as to artists, a business woman or a person living on retirement or disability.
As a case manager, Dolma helps adults with disability or mental illness access and maintain benefits and services. Prior to joining The Center, he was a stay-at-home parent while his wife, Brenda, was teaching, until their daughter entered second grade. He lived in Fort Worth, Texas until the age of 30 and earned a degree in business administration from Texas Wesleyan University. His work experience ranges from working on a slim line in a cannery to banking services.
During his campaign for city council, Dolma vowed to accept no campaign contributions to put up signs or take out ads.
“I asked that if they wanted to make a contribution, give it to a charity of their choice instead,” Dolma said. Campaigns across the nation from small offices to the highest consume billions in funding that would better be spent elsewhere, he said.
During his 22 years in Homer, Dolma has consistently volunteered for one group or another. He has served on the planning commission, for the Haven House, as an EMT for the Homer Volunteer Fire Department, for Pier One Theatre, the Homer Foundation, KBBI, Center for Alaska Coastal Studies, Pratt Museum, Cook Inletkeeper, Girl Scouts and Hospice of Homer.
Sharon Minsch has a long record of service in Homer also, and is experienced in city government after six years on the Advisory Planning Commission, most as chair. She is a long-time Homer real estate agent and Rotary member instrumental in organizing the annual health fair.
“I’m here so you have a choice,” Minsch said, declining to give a speech. “I, too, could list a long litany of volunteerism. I am up to speed on the budget. I’ve had training in conflicts of interest. I’m just here so that you have a choice, and most of you know me really well. I don’t mean to be flippant. You know my record – I do my homework, I show up prepared.”
Each applicant was quizzed on his or her support of the natural gasline distribution system for Homer. They both support the configuration devised by the City, so far, to create special assessment districts.
“Everyone on the truck line will pay their assessment and it will make it more affordable. I am gung ho,” Minsch said. “I am concerned that not everyone will want it. It will be a huge economic boom for this town, I think the city has done a great job.”
On the question of using sales tax monies for the gasline LID, Dolma answered that he would need to see the numbers before he could make a decision. Minsch felt the current LID plan is a good one and was concerned about the process by which a sales tax revenue plan could be made.
“The (LID plan) is the road we are going on, and until we know exactly where we are going, it would put the cart before the horse to change directions,” she said. “Do voters get to vote on that? I would say let’s not muddy up the waters. Pursue the route you were going to go.”
On plastic bags, Minsch felt the ban was a good idea. At the Rotary Health Fair this year, the decision was made to distribute fabric bags. “And I say that as someone whose outboard motor sucked up plastic bags in the past,” she added.
“It was a tough call you made, and I’m glad you made it,” Dolma responded. “A lot are against it, but a year out they will say this wasn’t tough. I don’t know what the problem was.”
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