Candidate Q&A: Rachel Lord

Current Homer City Council member Rachel Lord is looking to continue her work on at the city level, and is running to retain her seat in the upcoming Oct. 6 election.

Lord has served on the city council since 2017. If reelected, it would be her second term.

Originally from Maine, Lord moved to Alaska in 2005 to pursue a masters degree in wildlife biology from the University of Alaska Fairbanks, and has lived in Homer since 2008. She moved to Homer to work the International Pacific Halibut Commission, and has also worked for Cook Inletkeeper. As part of her work at Cook Inletkeeper, Lord spearheaded development of the Alaska Clean Harbors program, as well as the Alaska Food Hub.

Lord started her family business Alaska Stems in 2012, a cut flower farm and floristry design business. She also works for the Alaska Association of Harbormasters and Port Administrators.

She has served on the Homer Farmers Market Board of Directors and the Kachemak Heritage Land Trust Board of Directors.

Question: What made you decide to run for Homer City Council again?

Answer: I am a business owner and a parent. My husband was born and raised in Homer, and we are raising our two daughters here. I am running for a second term on council for similar reasons as before — I love this town, and I strongly believe in citizen engagement in running our local government. I have dedicated three years to learning the ins and outs of how the city works and council’s role. A second term has immense value in capitalizing on that learning to serve the community with positive, proactive leadership to support our citizens. I believe the city should provide a stable, predictable base of core services upon which all of our families and businesses can thrive, with fiscal responsibility and full transparency – making this happen is no small task, and it’s exciting and challenging.

Q: Other than the issues caused by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, what do you see as the three biggest issues facing the city currently?

A: Three top issues I see for the city in the coming year include: financial and systems planning for our water and sewer systems, increased development within the city and needs for improved stormwater management/sidewalks/transportation planning, and our large vessel harbor expansion project.

Q: What could Homer be doing better in terms of handling and mitigating the COVID-19 pandemic (if anything)?

A: I am so proud of the work the city staff have done during this pandemic. While city staff have been busy navigating the day-to-day emergency response and communications, on council we have been charting courses forward for CARES Act funds to help the community and understanding the roles and responsibilities of the city versus the state and other players in this kind of response. I am very proud of the work that I did alongside council member Donna Aderhold drafting policies for our household, nonprofit, childcare, and social services economic relief grant programs. I worked closely with the mayor on developing the small business grant program. If reelected, I will continue to work to ensure these funds are moved into the community with maximum possible value, while also making sure the city uses the funds appropriately and that we aren’t liable for misused funds down the line.

Q: What will be the biggest priority/priorities heading into the city’s next budget cycle?

A: We are currently in the middle of our first two-year budget cycle for the City of Homer. A major priority this year will be looking at actual revenues versus our anticipated revenues in the Fiscal Year 2020-21 budget and making adjustments as needed. Early on in the pandemic, I worked with council member Heath Smith to pass a resolution directing staff to limit operational spending, and stop any unnecessary capital spending until we had a better picture of our potential revenue losses in the second and third quarters.

One of my top priorities is to continue working to establish financial policies surrounding our reserve funds in the Utility Fund, the General Fund, and the harbor. I’m excited to continue working on reasonable and rational financial policies to define sideboards that guide budgeting and rate setting in ways that benefit the citizens of Homer into the future.

Q: What skills do you bring to the table that would make you an effective council member?

A: I’m a fast reader. Which, while true, is a bit of a joke because there is so much more needed for being an effective member of the council. Nevertheless, I am dedicated to being very well prepared for each and every meeting we have. Our packet for the Sept. 14 regular meeting, was 633 pages long — and that doesn’t include the worksession packet. Being able to digest that much information with a critical mind throughout the year is a big challenge, and I have shown I am capable of meeting it head-on. I am open minded and curious. The city council is a non-partisan political body — I don’t come to the table with any agenda and I’m able to hear views and opinions I might not have thought of or share personally to consider them along with others for the long-term best interest of the city. Finally, I enjoy minute details, and I am committed to an open and transparent public process.

Q: What is your favorite book and why?

A: I’ve never had a single favorite book. I just finished reading “Station Eleven” by Emily St. John Mandel. It was published in 2015, and was somewhat difficult to read for its post-pandemic dystopia that hit just a little close to home in 2020. The storytelling was excellent, however, with a vision of rebirth from destruction and an inevitable exposure to life’s vulnerabilities that kept me up reading way too late at night.