Donna Aderhold and Heath Smith are gearing up to continue their work on the Homer City Council after the Oct. 2 borough-wide election.
While there are technically three candidates appearing on the ballot for city council seats in Homer, the race is uncontested. Resident and Homer Education and Recreation Complex Task Force member, Deb Lowney, filed to run for office and will appear on the ballot. However, she later announced that she would no longer actively run for a seat and that she will be unable to serve due to family matters.
Adererhold is the Science Coordinator for the Gulf Watch Alaska Program. This will be her second term on the council. A former wildlife biologist, Aderhold is also a member of the Kachemak Heritage Land Trust board of directors and the Kachemak Bay Research Reserve community council.
Smith sits on the Economic Development Commission. He was worked with the United Parcel Service for 21 years. This will also be his second term.
Below is a break down of how each candidate answered several questions from the Homer News in separate interviews Tuesday:
Question: What is the top, or a few of the top, issues facing Homer right now?
Aderhold: “The biggest issue is maintaining a balanced budget, with increasing demands on what the city needs and what the residents of the city want. … We’ve basically got a frozen staff, and yet the workload is continuing to increase. … We’re going to have to figure out how to say no to things that we’d love to have and that we feel that we need to have … and we’re going to have to figure out other ways to pay for things.”
Smith: “The budget is an ongoing thing. Largely, it’s (about) a sustainable tax revenue that will help us achieve the service level that meets the need of our residents. … Sustainability is, can we afford to do certain things year after year with the annual escalators that are attached to them? … The things we do have control over, we have to be careful about where we increase those line items.”
Q: What do you see as the basic duties of a council member?
Aderhold: “We’re the policy makers. Whoever brings something forward, we’re the ones who decide whether that idea should become policy, should be part of the code of the city. I think that we’re also to some degree ambassadors for the city. That’s really the mayor’s role, but whenever any of us is out and about, whether in Homer or outside of Homer, we are representing Homer.”
Smith: “A council member is elected by the voters to represent their best interests, the health and safety and welfare for their community, and there’s a number of different components to that. I believe strongly that that is regardless of race, religion, gender, all of those things. It doesn’t get compartmentalized in that way.”
Q: How do you approach working on an issue you know to be divisive among residents?
Aderhold: “Public input to me is really important. I don’t think that council should necessarily shy away from anything controversial, but that public input is so key and really listening to what people say. And then based on what we’re heard from the public, background information that we have, knowledge of the subject, any other research we have done, we are the ones tasked with making what we hope is the best decision.”
Smith: “Whether those that desire to bring something … to the table are willing to bring those that they know are opposed to it, bringing them to the table so it can be more of a compromise. Words matter. … Bringing those opinions to the table in the draft form (of a measure) I think is really important.”
Q: What are some issues you have an interest in working on through the council?
Aderhold: “One thing is the HERC. I would like to see that move forward and figure out what the city needs … related to the facility, and how we get us there.”
Aderhold also talked about ADA compliance within the city.
“We’re currently working on a transition plan so that over a reasonable period of time, we can bring all city buildings into compliance with ADA. … I’ve gained so much better understanding of the barriers that people face, things that to me are — it’s one step, for me it’s no big deal, but for somebody else it’s a huge barrier.”
Smith: “The East Boat Harbor expansion is really kind of something that … has large implications across the board just because of what it will allow us to expand with our tax base.”
Smith also listed issues with drug addiction and the damage it causes as a main area of interest to him.
Q: What is your favorite thing about Homer?
Aderhold: “As a council member, it’s the people. It’s the diversity of the people who come and speak to us. … I’ve gained perspectives of this community that I would have, had I not been on council. And I appreciate that people are willing to share that part of themselves.”
Smith: “I mean, people make the place, and there is just a lot of genuine people that live here, and they care. And that is shown throughout everything we do around here.”
City residents can cast their votes for city council members, and for Homer mayor, in the Oct. 2 election.