Editor’s note: The names of Donna Aderhold’s two stepchildren have been corrected.
The daughter of a civil engineer who moved his family around the United States from project to project, Donna Aderhold, 53, said her diverse geographic background exposed her to a lot of different points of view and culture. That would be an asset as a Homer City Council member, she said. Born in Asheville, N.C., she also lived in Texas, Arkansas, Florida, Hawaii, Washington and Missouri.
“That moving around has definitely influenced my ability to see multiple sides of the issue,” Aderhold said. “That’s part of what I bring to this.”
Aderhold returned to her North Carolina roots in college, earning a bachelor of science in wildlife science at North Carolina State University, Raleigh. She went back to Texas for her master of science degree, also in wildlife science, from Texas A & M University, College Station. In college Aderhold thought of being a creative writing major, but shifted to biology when she realized as a writer she might be waiting tables the rest of her life. She recently has returned to fiction writing, though, exploring flash fiction.
A college professor convinced her she wanted to study zoology. She found out she liked zoology and was good at it. Aderhold chose a wildlife science major rather than a more specific discipline.
“You get more into how humans connect with wildlife as opposed to the zoological systems in themselves,” she said.
Aderhold’s master’s thesis on snow geese led her to her first job in Alaska in 1990 as a research wildlife biologist for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. She did a snow geese study as part of a project looking at the possible effects of oil and gas development on wildlife in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.
“It was a great way to get to see parts of the state most people don’t get to see,” she said.
Aderhold worked from 1990-1996 for Fish and Wildlife and later for the National Biologic Survey when her department got moved into that federal agency. Since then she’s worked for a series of private environmental consulting firms, usually on projects related to the National Environmental Policy Act, or NEPA. She now works for HDR Inc. out of Anchorage, but living in Homer. She’s done consulting for state agencies as well as oil companies.
“I’ve learned a ton working with engineers, working with project proponents, listening to public testimony on why people agree or disagree with a project moving forward,” Aderhold said.
Aderhold moved to Homer in 2008 after meeting and marrying Wayne Aderhold. She’s a step-mom to his children Holly and Kasey. Although HDR is based in Anchorage, her bosses let her live and telecommute from Homer — a growing trend among some Homer residents.
“The hard part of Homer, people get to Homer and they decide they want to be here and figure out how to make life work,” Aderhold said. “I have to say, I got a sweet deal. Not everybody gets this deal.”
Aderhold said she sees the role of local government as “providing the services that need to be provided for the common good that individual or small groups cannot provide on their own.”
That includes fire protection, law enforcement, public works and the harbor, but also administrative services and the library. Government also has another role, that of “the tragedy of the commons,” an idea developed by ecological philosopher Garrett Hardin in his 1968 essay of the same name. Hardin’s concept is that when someone uses a commonly held resource, it’s in the individual’s best interest to maximize use of that resource, but when they do, a tragedy happens: the commons gets degraded.
“One of the roles of city government is to keep us from the tragedy of the commons,” Aderhold said. “That’s what I feel like we have going on with the beach policy right now. … It’s a common space being loved too much but not being respected.”
Aderhold decided to run for council after people from different parts of the community asked her to run. She said no
“After I said ‘no,’ I thought about what they said and what I would offer the city. I agreed with them and said I would run,” she said. “I want to do this. I want to be on the city council to be of service to the community.”