Vance brings recall role to council race

Editor's note: This article has been change to correct a quote by Sarah Vance.

If the elephant in the room in the Homer City Council race is the recall campaign, candidate Sarah Vance could be considered the elephant trainer. She served as one of the co-chairs of Heartbeat of Homer, the group organized to back the attempted recall against council members Donna Aderhold, David Lewis and Catriona Reynolds, and became the spokesperson for the recall group.

“I could represent that group and the values without becoming too emotional,” Vance said. “There were a lot of deep feelings and misunderstandings.”

Like fellow candidate Rachel Lord, 36, Vance, 38, also represents a constituency of Generation X Homer residents trying to raise a family and make a living. She and her husband, Jeff, have four children ages 3 to 14. Vance has a certificate in massage and bodywork, and ran a business, Renu, until she had her third child. She now works as a mother and homeschools her children through the Kenai Peninsula Borough Connections program.

Jeff Vance grew up on a family farm in Farmer’s City, Ill., and has a degree in agricultural business. He’s worked in finance and insurance, but now has a job as a custodian at Paul Banks Elementary School.

An avid knitter, Vance also works freelance dying yarn and writing knitting patterns, like Iditarod themed patterns.

“It’s a creative outlet I do. Hopefully I can get going with that,” she said.

The daughter of Coletta and Raymond Walker, Vance was born in the Texas panhandle and came to Homer at age 10 when her parent moved here to work in the ministry. Vance lives in the Forest Glen Drive neighborhood near her parents.

“They’d always had a heart for Homer,” Vance said of why her parents moved here.

Her father wound up working at numerous jobs in Homer and around the state. Coletta Walker has run the Berry Patch B &B for 24 years.

Vance graduated from Homer High School in 1997 and has two older brothers, Shane and Matt. After high school, Vance went to the Kachemak Bay Campus, Kenai Peninsula College. In high school, Vance was in Future Homemakers of America, now Future Leaders of America. English teacher Esther Webb helped her learn public speaking.

“I had some amazing instructors here and found out education was fun,” she said.

English and speech professor emerita Beth Graber particularly impressed her, Vance said.

“She really helped articulate and refine my public delivery,” Vance said. “It was those two teachers who really encouraged me. I was quiet when I was young. People called me a wallflower.”

Vance graduated with an associate of arts in small business and accounting from KBC. After college, she did Christian missionary work and later got a degree in missions from the World Bible College in Denver, where she met her husband. Her mission work took her to Russia, Latvia, the Philippines, Mexico, Polance, Swaziland and Namibia. She helped with building projects and visited people in hospitals and elder care homes. On one mission trip she went to Soweto, a township in South Africa.

“That was a game changer, a life changer for me,” Vance said. “They asked us why we were here — ‘White people are afraid to come here,’” Vance said.

She also visited a hospital for AIDS patients.

“That was sobering, seeing things you didn’t think existed in our world. It definitely gave me a world perspective and a compassion for people and how important it is to instill hope,” Vance said.

Vance starting thinking about running for city council in February and March when people asked her to run.

“I had never thought about it before. It’s not really I woke up one day and said ‘I’m going to run for city council,’” she said.

Some people also had encouraged her to run for the Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly or for the Alaska Legislature.

“What? No,” Vance said about those ideas. “Homer still needs people. My heart is to do good right in my own backyard.”

Vance said she sees the city council as a civic rather than a political body.

“I think there’s a big disconnect on how we view our local government as a ‘them’ and not an ‘us.’ I want us to bridge that gap,” she said.

When people asked her to run for office, Vance said they cited her speaking skills, telling her they might not be able to articulate what they wanted to say, but she could.

“I can’t be a vote for one particular group anymore,” Vance said about running for council. “If I’m elected for council, I represent everyone in Homer. I want to have that open mind where I can look at something from one corner. I want to walk around where I can see things I haven’t seen before.”

As a supporter of the recall, Vance acknowledged that she has a unique role in helping heal the divisiveness of the vote.

“I’d say, ‘Let’s talk directly about it.’ The first thing would start with me,” she said. “I want to heal any hurts if possible. I can’t fix anything, but I am sorry for causing pain. I believe I stood for what was truth because I wanted truth and accountability.”

Vance also acknowledged that if elected, she also could be subject to recall — and that’s part of why she’s running.

“If I’m not willing to put myself in the same place as the council members being recalled, that makes me a hypocrite,” she said.

The recall process had a positive effect in that it made people more aware of their role in government, Vance said.

“So many more people are engaged in their government. So many more people feel like they know what’s going on,” she said.


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