Like a lot of Homer immigrants, city council candidate Stephen Mueller moved here with his wife, Robyn, after he fell in love with the seaside setting.
“It’s Maine on steroids,” Mueller calls Homer.
Affable and with a quick wit, Mueller is from central Ohio in the Arlington area near Ohio State University. Mueller, 60, grew up in Cincinnati, where he got his masters of pharmacy administration at the University of Cincinnati. He works as a pharmacist at Ulmer’s Drug and Hardware.
A devout Roman Catholic, he met his wife while doing missionary work in Appalachia in Mancehster, Ky.
“God took care of me, let me meet the woman that rocks my world still to this day,” he said.
He and Robyn have been married 38 years and have two children, Nikki and Josh, both graduates of the U.S. Naval Academy. Nikki is a Top Gun pilot instructor and Josh is working on his doctorate in physics and engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
“Robyn and I, when the family gets together, we learn from our children,” Mueller said.
The Muellers came to appreciate coastal towns after moving from the Midwest to Rhode Island. Mueller first came to Alaska and Homer to help Medicaid here develop its preferred drug list. People in Anchorage told him everyone plays on the Kenai Peninsula and he should go visit Homer. He did, loved it, and convinced Robyn to visit. He booked the room with the best view at Land’s End Resort.
“Basically, she was just set up,” Mueller said. “She said, ‘This might work. We need to come back.’”
In 2008, they bought a house off West Hill Road sight unseen. It worked out, though. They both had health-care jobs where they could work remotely. Robyn Mueller writes the complicated descriptions that come with prescription drugs. Mueller worked with Affiliated Computer Services, later bought by Xerox, and then got laid off. He said he thought he might retire, but Mueller said Robyn told him he would drive her crazy and he got the Ulmer’s job.
A musician, Mueller plays guitar and bass, and has been in several Homer bands such as Seafaring Strangers and Burnt Down House. He is part of the music ministry at St. John the Baptist Catholic Church. He decided to run for city council after church friends and others urged him to put his name on the ballot.
Council member Tom Stroozas was particularly encouraging, Mueller said. Stroozas told him he “wants to move things in a way that we have consensus in the community so we don’t feel like the council is dictating to us and making decisions we wouldn’t feel otherwise,” Mueller said.
Mueller’s only prior political experience was on a civic association director in upper Arlington, Ohio. He has no other political ambitions. If he doesn’t win, “I’m fine with that,” he said.
“This is not a notch I need in my belt. My CV (curriculum vitae or resume) got put away a long time time ago, ” he said.
If he can help Homer, though, he’s happy to serve, Mueller said.
“I do have — and this is what our kids got taught — if you have gifts and talents given to you by God, you should share them with people,” he said.
The recall controversy and election bothered him, Mueller said.
“It’s tragic that now we’ve got folks so divided. It really hurt. I was really concerned about this,” he said.
People encouraged him to run because they saw him as a healer, he said.
“They said ‘We need somebody like you to run, to bring this community together,’” Mueller said. “I just have to offer myself in case this helps with the healing process of our community. Maybe that will help.”
Mueller made a comparison with Homer to the people in his church. St. John’s has people who are ultra devotional to those who are social justice Catholics. A former church leader, Sister Carol Anne, found a way to bring them together.
“What she did was find what we have in common, what we can all rally on. Let’s not focus on our differences. Let’s focus on what brings us together,” he said.
In Homer, that includes clean water, bike and pedestrian paths, a good harbor and a good police force.
“We can come together on the things we care about,” he said.
Mueller said his life experience and education would give him a strong background for the council.
“I woud be really, really helpful on health care,” he said.
He also recognizes that Homer includes people living outside the city limits who can’t vote for him. Many of them have said they would vote for him if they could, he said.
“I love Homer. I really do. It’s not just the city of Homer. There’s the big Homer. It’s all the people who live on the outside,” Mueller said. “Our city council has to think of big Homer, because big Homer uses our services here.”