On Tuesday, Oct. 5, elections will be held for Homer City Council, Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly District 9 and the Kenai Peninsula Borough Board of Education District 8. To help inform voters, the Homer News will introduce the candidates, show their answers to a group of questions and give them an opportunity to make their pitch on why you should elect them. This week, we share the candidates’ responses to questions formulated by the Homer News.
Homer City Council
Three seats are up for election this year: two three-year seats currently held by council member Donna Aderhold and Heath Smith, and the last year of a seat held by former council member Joey Evensen. For the two, three-year seats, the top two vote getters are elected. For the one-year seat, the winner is elected. Incumbent council member Heath Smith is running for the one-year seat against Jason Davis, who was appointed by the council to fill out Evensen’s term until the election.
The candidates are:
Two, Three-year seats
Donna Aderhold, incumbent
Heath Smith, incumbent (but running for the 1-year seat)
Jason Davis, appointed
1. Given the increase in COVID-19 hospitalizations and positive cases, do you think anything has been lacking in the city of Homer’s response to the pandemic? If elected, what suggestions do you have for addressing the ongoing challenge of the pandemic?
Donna Aderhold: Through the course of the pandemic, city administration and staff have worked tirelessly with partners including South Peninsula Hospital and local public health nursing staff to respond to the pandemic in myriad ways and I am proud of the past and continued work of city staff. The city council is limited in the ability to issue city-wide health mandates because Homer lacks health powers. The council can demonstrate leadership in other ways. I sponsored, and city council passed unanimously, an open letter to the community providing the city’s mitigation strategy as an example and encouraging vaccination, masking, and social distancing.
Shelly Erickson: I believe the City of Homer has been diligent with the COVID monies received to help the struggling businesses to stay in business in a very difficult work environment. I commend the Council for their foresight in this issue. What has been lacking is the concerted effort to make our community mental health, less fearful and more proactive in a healthy lifestyle, therapeutics and ways to protect the families from unintended consequences.
Adam Hykes: What the People of Homer people did well at first was loving one another. But war has taken a toll on us all, and that love has faded. What’s now lacking is the compassion and love for our neighbors who think differently from us. Our judgments are killing us relationally far more than Covid-19 is killing us physically. We must come back to the thing that makes Homer beautiful: our love and support for one another. We can’t love only those who agree with us. I believe we must do better if we are to truly be “in this together.”
Jason Davis: Much of the recent rise in positive cases has been driven by “breakthrough” cases in fully vaccinated people. This caught people by surprise not just in Homer, but around the U.S. Given that the City of Homer is not empowered to issue health mandates, I think the city’s response, particularly the earlier work of the Homer Unified Command, and the decision to require masks in all city-owned buildings, has been solid. Going forward, until case numbers come down significantly, the city council should continue to encourage vaccinations, mask-wearing and social distancing, as we did with a City Council letter just last week.
Heath Smith: The City of Homer declared a state of emergency, stood up an emergency command, and collaborated with local and state health officials in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The city also developed and implemented a mitigation plan that would help ensure the health and safety of our employees, allowing the city to continue to provide the most essential services to the city residents. We have done all within our power and authority to encourage the public to take proper precautions to protect themselves, and safeguard the community. Recently we passed a memorandum to encourage other entities and our community members to again consider the impacts of their response to the ongoing pandemic.
2. If elected or re-elected to the Homer City Council, what do you see as your role in helping the city recover economically and otherwise from the COVID-19 pandemic?
Donna Aderhold: During 2020 the mayor and council worked diligently to develop policies to distribute federal CARES Act funds that came to the city. I am proud of my role in that work. We are now in the midst of the delta variant surge and who knows what variant may come next. Second quarter taxable sales in the city were above average this year and some businesses are extremely busy. However, some businesses have closed or downsized and some residents are unemployed. The role of city council in pandemic recovery is to evaluate need and set policy for the greatest community good.
Shelly Erickson: Economic recovery starts with hope for the future and seeing the needs and filling them. When we loose hope in our future and stop moving our businesses forward, it is a slow recovery. We have to as a community realistically see a future with COVID type issues, an economic national slow down and many other negative issues that are coming into the news daily. As we see those issues we must face how we can positively keep our city full of hope and set policies in place that protect our communities best interest. Each segment of our economy has been affected differently. We must be smart in keeping our options open, and fluid in motion.
Adam Hykes: In order to recover from the economic damage done by the pandemic, we must first restore the heart of unity to the city of homer. We must see each other as a human being, and not as a spreader/masker or vaccinated/unvaccinated. These differences of opinion cannot become an issue of division. We have to stay united more now than ever, or else our light in Homer will surely fade. But if choose to love one another even when we strongly disagree, then we will continue to be a safe harbor, and a light by the sea.
Jason Davis: The City Council has a critical role to play in ensuring that federal recovery funds are put to good use here in Homer. In a council meeting last week, we took action to move forward on pursuing American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funding to create a new community and recreation center at the site of the old HERC. There may be an opportunity in the near future to secure federal infrastructure funding for an expansion of the harbor. I want to explore whether it might be possible for Homer to tap into federal funds to encourage the expansion of outdoor seating areas at restaurants and bars the way that Soldotna has done with its outdoor dining grants.
Heath Smith: The strain of the pandemic has been real. I believe many businesses have found a way to adapt their business models in order to be successful. Fortunately, the council was given the opportunity to help the community by distributing over $6.7 million in CARES funding through a number of programs. That helped bridge the gap last year. 2021 proved to be a banner year for many, and sales tax revenues show that. As a city we need to continue to encourage safe community practices in response to the pandemic, and promote local shopping.
3. What problems do you see the city facing in the next five years? As a council member, what would you do to address these problems?
Donna Aderhold: Whether you say problems or opportunities for improvement, there is never a shortage of policy issues to address by the city council and the city’s commissions and boards. A short list of topics I’m interested in tackling includes moving forward with the HERC/multi-use community center, addressing ADA accessibility issues at city facilities, and seeking solutions to housing affordability. The council is currently taking action on the HERC and I am championing ADA accessibility as the city council representative on the ADA Compliance Committee. Housing affordability is a conundrum without easy solution and I’d love to hear ideas from the community.
Shelly Erickson: Being prudent in the way we move the City forward is important. We need to develop our Port and also come alongside the Fishing Community as both bring revenue into the City of Homer from many different angles. As Homer grows with people moving up from the lower 48, we need to make sure that our values and lifestyles are not lost and those moving here enjoy a real Alaskan adventure.
Adam Hykes: Adam Hykes did not submit an answer for this question.
Jason Davis: We desperately need more affordable housing, especially during the summer months when it is critical that our businesses attract and house large numbers of seasonal workers. If virtually every available house and apartment is occupied in summertime as a vacation rental, and even pitching a tent on the Spit costs $600/month, it’s no wonder our local businesses struggle to find workers. Brainstorming possible solutions with experts, fellow council members and the public to address this challenge will be a priority for me. Other cities have found ways to incentivize the private sector to build affordable housing units, and I’m convinced that we can, too, if we put our minds to it. We will also need solutions for storm water drainage and slope stability in Homer, especially in areas where the bluff is eroding faster than it needs to.
Heath Smith: Beach erosion on the spit is only going to get worse over time and we need to be relentless with the Alaska Department of Transportation and Army Corp of Engineers in finding a resolution to this issue. Water. The city of Homer is the primary source of water to a much larger area than its borders. We need to start considering the implications of what that increasing demand looks like and what policy structures need to be addressed in response.
4. What current issues do you think you could help address?
Donna Aderhold: During my time on city council, I have learned that I really enjoy deep dives into city issues and working with the city manager, staff, and other councilmembers on policy documents and code changes that are in the best interest of the public. Some of the issues I’m most interested in leading during the next three years include the HERC/multi-use community center, climate mitigation and adaptation, ADA accessibility, walkability and bike-ability, and housing affordability.
Shelly Erickson: I think my diversity of life experiences bring a depth to the table in how the laws for our city are implemented. I make decisions based on facts not on emotion. The question is “what is best for Homer”.
Adam Hykes: Adam Hykes did not submit an answer for this question.
Jason Davis: Locking in federal funding to move forward on the HERC and on a harbor expansion is a top priority. I would also like to see more sidewalks and trails in Homer. But more than pursuing any specific agenda, what’s important to me is asking the right questions, getting to know the concerns that are most widely shared by local residents, and then working with local, state, and federal officials and programs to address them in a cost-effective manner.
Heath Smith: We are currently working on underlying policy that is foundational to the fiscal framework we have recently put in to place. I would like to be able to finish that up. We have made great strides in cleaning up the books. Time to make sure they stay that way. We have talked about a community center for long before I was elected six years ago, and now we are in the best position to get a great outcome. We were successful in delivering a new police station and I would like to put that experience to work on delivering this project.
5. What qualifies you to be elected to the council?
Donna Aderhold: Aside from the basic requirements to be over 18 years old and a resident within the city for at least a year, I believe I am qualified by having critical thinking skills, understanding the complexity and diversity of issues that face the city council, my ability to listen to others and maintain an open mind while also being able to argue my position, and my resolve to respond to and work with constituents who reach out to me. The six years I have spent on the city council demonstrate that I am qualified for the position.
Shelly Erickson: I think my record of being a council member is that I made good things happen for the city. Homer is my home. It is not just a stop in life.
Adam Hykes: My heart for Homer qualifies me. During the Covid-19 outbreak of 2020, I personally brought Covid-19 relief applications to businesses. I poured over each newsletter and loaded it to the gills with the latest grants for renters, fishermen and businesses, and hit the bricks to post it all over town every single month. I bled for my City that summer. During my time as a legislative-aide, I helped to create a bill which tightened the legal language on Alaska’s laws regarding sex-trafficking. I can read and write law, and I will do just as well for city code.
Jason Davis: I represented the United States overseas, in seven different countries, over the course of 24 years. Diplomatic service in a foreign country means putting yourself in someone else’s shoes, learning how they see things and figuring out what’s important to them. For several years toward the end of my career, I was in charge of two different posts, first the U.S. Consulate General in Dubai and then the U.S. Embassy in Malta. Running a consulate or an embassy requires excellent negotiating skills, attention to detail, and an ability to work effectively with people from all sides of the political spectrum to solve real-world problems. I am also a small business owner, with an insider’s understanding of some of the complicated factors involved in running a business here in Homer during challenging economic times. I grew up on the Kenai Peninsula, and took early retirement to come back here with my kids so they could grow up here too. I care deeply about this community, and I have the energy, the background, the motivation and the time to work hard with my fellow council members and Homer residents to find creative solutions to the challenges we already know about, and to new ones that will come up going forward.
Heath Smith: I think my body of work over the last six years shows that the trust of the voters has not been misplaced. I have been present, ready, and effective in working for the best outcomes for our community. I’ve shown that I can work with anyone on council, and that collaboration is a win win.
6. Have you received any of the COVID-19 vaccines?
Donna Aderhold: Yes, I am fully vaccinated. I signed up at the first opportunity when I qualified, receiving my first dose of the Moderna vaccine on March 12 and my second dose on April 10. I really appreciate the mass vaccination clinics cosponsored by the City of Homer, South Peninsula Hospital, and other partners. Their teamwork and good humor created a festive climate.
Shelly Erickson: I am all up to date on my required shots. I had COVID.
Adam Hykes: I’m sorry, but as Adam’s primary healthcare provider, I can’t legally disclose that information to you under HIPAA federal law. 20 But if Adam did, he would take the only FDA authorized vaccine, “Comirnaty”, which isn’t available yet. My patient looks forward to when Pfizer-BioNTech finishes their deferred safety study in 2025.
Jason Davis: Yes, I have been fully vaccinated since May of this year.
Heath Smith: In November of 2020 my family and I contracted COVID-19. My doctor told me that natural immunity is on par with those vaccinated, and that a booster may be needed as time goes on. I chose to get vaccinated.
7. Have you ever been charged with a crime? If so, what was the result?
Donna Aderhold: No, I have not been charged with a crime.
Shelly Erickson: No
Adam Hykes: Adam Hykes did not submit an answer for this question.
Jason Davis: No.