Homer voters in Tuesday’s election selected candidates with strong business backgrounds. In the Homer mayoral race, they chose Homer City Council member Bryan Zak, assistant state director for the Small Business Development Center. In unofficial results Zak is the likely winner for Homer mayor, defeating fellow council member David Lewis.
Zak won with 594 votes to Lewis with 520 votes. About 300 absentee, special needs and questioned ballots remain to be counted, and with a 74-vote margin in the mayoral race, it’s possible the election could go to Lewis.
In the city council race for two, 3-year seats, voters had a choice of two Homer Advisory Planning Commissioners and small business owners, with a commercial fisheries worker offering an alternative.
In the council race, former planning commissioner and business owner Shelly Erickson easily won election, with 104 percent or 922 votes. Current planning commissioner Tom Stroozas, owner of the America’s Cuisine Anchorage dining guide, came in second, with 72 percent or 639 votes. Kimberly Ketter came in third with 22 percent or 181 votes.
Percentages are based on the total number of votes cast in the two-seat race and then doubled because voters had a choice of two candidates. In unofficial results on the city website, the percentages were based on the total number of votes cast.
Erickson and Stroozas will fill the seats now held by Zak and Gus VanDyke, who chose not to run for re-election. Stroozas said he will resign at the end of the planning commission meeting on Wednesday.
Zak ran an upbeat, positive campaign with the message of “working together.” He ended a sunny election day waving signs on Pioneer Avenue in front of WKFL Park with supporters.
“I greatly appreciate the support,” Zak said. “I’m looking forward to working with all the voters.”
Zak said it was easy to communicate his message because he believes in his campaign slogan.
“We do need to work together,” he said. “I’m going to plan on building a strong team. I know that every member of the city council is very strong in what they bring to the table.”
Lewis was philosophical in his loss.
He had said earlier this would be his last term on the council, with one year to go. If he had been elected mayor, his public service would have been extended another year. If he loses the mayor’s race, he will remain on the council until the end of his term in October 2017.
“Win or lose, I won. I am still there,” he said. “I just want to thank everybody who supported me.”
Erickson is a lifelong, third-generation Homer resident and owner of several businesses while Stroozas is a more recent resident, but also with business experience. Erickson said she thought her business experience appealed to voters. With her husband Jeff she owns HomeRun Oil, a fuel delivery service, Short Stop Tesoro, an RV campground near the gas station at the top of Baycrest Hill, and Homer Tours.
“I think a lot of people talk about they wanted a business perspective on there (the council),” she said of voters. “That was important. (Business owners) understand how they all live and how they think about finances and rules and all that kind of stuff.”
Stroozas said he was “excited and deeply humbled the people of Homer have elected me to serve three years.” He said he will work together with other members of the council and the community to make things better.
“We’ve got a lot of tough decisions to make,” Stroozas said. “I have the wisdom and courage to be able to help the council make the decisions we need to make what’s best for the community.”
Ketter, who works at the Auction Block on the Spit, ran under the cloud of a recent felony driving under the influence conviction. She also acknowledged that conviction and in debates openly confronted the challenges of her substance abuse. She did not return messages seeking comment on the election.
Voter turnout was about 31 percent in the Homer election. Under election rules revised after a runoff in the 2015 city election, council candidates in a race of five or fewer candidates need 40 percent of half the total votes cast for all candidates in a two-seat race. With 1,779 votes cast for the three candidates, and including write-in votes, the 40-percent plurality is 356 votes.
The Homer Canvass Board will meet at 1 p.m. Friday to count the remaining ballot and certify the results. The mayor and new council members will be sworn in at the council meeting on Monday.
Michael Armstrong can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.