Sarno wants to make people love Homer, listen

Sarno wants to make people love Homer, listen

Note: In Homer’s two-person mayoral race, citizens might have noticed something missing from the contest between incumbent Mayor Beth Wythe and challenger Lindianne Sarno: yard signs. By mutual agreement, Wythe and Sarno decided not to put up the signs. The candidates top the Oct. 7 Homer ballot, with elections also for two city council members, a charter commission question and seven commission members.

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Political candidate Lindi-anne Sarno might be new to elections, but in her 4-and-a-half years in Homer she already has jumped into civic service. Sarno, 62 on Friday, served on the Economic Development Commission, the Kachemak Drive Path Committee and volunteers for the Kachemak Bay Wooden Boat Society. Sarno makes part of her living teaching piano, violin, viola, guitar, and music composition and theory in her little studio next to Café Cups on Pioneer Avenue. With partner Bumppo Bremicker, a 45-year Homer resident, she also has a small half-acre farm on Kachemak Drive, raising vegetables and chickens.

Born in Manhattan, New York City, Sarno credits a passion for public health to her father, Dr. John Sarno, a World War II medic and later doctor who wrote a book about treating chronic back pain. She grew up in rural New York state in Rockland County and graduated with a bachelor of arts in history from Princeton University. After college, because her family expected her to go to law school, she went a year-and-a-half. After that she lived on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, working at an investment bank on Wall Street and later as an assistant to an editor at an investment magazine.

“I didn’t like the ethics,” she said of both jobs, and left New York in 1980. Living on the Upper West Side gave her an appreciation for mixed-use neighborhoods, she said.

“I know what a healthy neighborhood looks like, where the sidewalks are thronged with people and the businesses are thriving and kids can walk safely,” Sarno said.

In the early 1980s, Sarno kicked around the Pacific Northwest. Her daughter was born in Reedsport, Ore., a coastal town similar to Homer. She farmed in Olympia, Wash., selling salad packs at the local farmers market. 

As a child growing up in a musical Italian-American family, Sarno fell in love with music. In the northwest she played in Americana-country bands like Titan Valley, a bluegrass-Western swing band.

“Country music made me understand country people better,” she said.

In 1995 Sarno moved to Tucson, Ariz., to take care of her mother. 

“I love rain and snow and wet,” Sarno said. “It was a 13-year exile from where I wanted to be. I wanted to go farther north.”

In Tucson, Sarno started Sustainable Tucson, learned about dryland permaculture and taught music, at one point up to 45 students. When her mother moved to Tacoma to be with Sarno’s brother, Sarno could follow her dream. A Tucson friend, Mike Glasgow, Homer’s “spoon guy,” suggested Homer.

“He knew I would love Homer, and he was right,” Sarno said of Glasgow.

Bremicker has been her advisor about Homer culture, she said.

“It’s been such a joy to become part of a fishing family that has these deep roots. He grounds me in Homer community life.”

When no one stepped up to oppose Wythe, Sarno ran “to create a dialogue,” she said.

“As I’ve gotten into the campaign, I realized what I bring is an ability to analyze the problem that had grown up over the last few years where the city council and mayor were making some very unpopular decisions,” Sarno said.

Stopping the Kachemak Drive Path Project and not letting the Kachemak Bay Wooden Boat Society lease a lot by the Pier One Theatre are examples of projects the council stopped, she said. Sarno advocates more city cooperation with nonprofits, like what happened with the volunteer-led Homer Playground Project. 

“How can the city get out of the way and let the nonprofit community go ahead with these projects the nonprofit wants to do and the public needs?” Sarno asked.

Sarno quoted former Mayor Jack Cushing on what she sees as the role of Homer mayor.

“‘The mayor’s job is to make people love Homer,’” she said.

Beyond that, the mayor should listen.

“I see the mayor as listening to the circles of communities,” she said. “I’m a collaborator. I’m a negotiator. I’m relentlessly positive.”

At the top of Sarno’s to-do list is diverting the Public Safety Building project away from the Homer Education and Recreational Complex, or HERC. She advocates putting the Public Safety Building in the Public Works complex by Beluga Slough. She also advocates a system of kid-safe paths and food security. 

Sarno supports finding a permanent home for the Homer Farmers Market in the Town Center.

If Sarno had to cut the budget, she said she’d look at city salaries. She’d like to look at more efficient use of health care funds and focus more on nutritional and preventative health. 

Homer’s strength is “its people. Its beauty, its fish, its entrepreneurial spirit,” Sarno said. Homer’s weakness is that investment capital isn’t making it to the entrepreneurs needing it, she said.

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