In a long career that includes photography and natural gas sales, food has been the start and the most recent aspect of Homer City Council candidate Tom Stroozas’ life. The son of a grocer and butcher, and the grandson of a Greek immigrant, Stroozas, 63, grew up in the family grocery store, Stroozas Big Dollar Supermarket. Now semi-retired, he publishes America’s Cuisine Anchorage, a guide to restaurants and hotels in Southcentral Alaska, including Anchorage, Kenai, Soldotna, Seward and Homer.
Born in Superior, Wis., Stroozas said, “I learned how to cut meat at an early age.”
After high school, and with the draft heating up in 1970, he joined the U.S. Navy.
“My father convinced me. If you join the Navy, it’s for a longer time, but with at least an inch-and-a-half of steel between you and bullets,” Stroozas said.
Stroozas wound up shooting cameras instead of guns, and spent eight years as a naval photographer based out of Pensacola, Fla. He said his claim to fame is that while in the Navy he photographed every Coast Guard, Navy and Marine pilot.
After the Navy, he had a photography studio in Pensacola and then later went to work for Photo Corporation of America, a travelling studio based out of Charlotte, N.C., that had contracts with K-Marts to do baby pictures. Stroozas also had a business as a wedding photographer, shooting more than 1,500 weddings, including his last one in 2005 in Homer. He met his wife, Debbie, at Photo Corporation.
“After we got married she said, ‘You need to get a real job,’” Stroozas said.
That led to a career in sales and marketing with Piedmont Natural Gas in Charlotte. He retired in 2006 as manager of commercial marketing. One of his jobs was developing test kitchens to show commercial chefs new natural gas kitchen equipment. He got to know chefs very well and appreciate good cuisine.
Stroozas and his wife started visiting Alaska in the mid 1990s to go fishing. They liked it so much they came back five years in a row. In 2001 a friend suggested visiting Homer.
“We drove down from Anchorage and we crested Baycrest Hill on a nice sunny day,” he said. “We had that proverbial ‘aha’ moment. Debbie and I looked at each other and said, ‘We should be here.’”
In 2004 they built a vacation home on Skyline Drive. After he retired in 2006, Tom and Debbie Stroozas moved her full time. Saying he’s not a person to sit back and do nothing, Stroozas bought a license for a local version of AmericasCuisine. Friends who did a Charlotte version said an Alaska guide might be a good idea. He started working on it in 2010 and AmericasCuisine: Anchorage debuted in 2011. He spends four months in the fall and winter selling ads and producing content.
“It fits well in the Alaska lifestyle. It leaves our summers free,” he said.
Stroozas got into the council race at the urging of Homer Voice for Business, an organization of business owners formed in 2013 out of frustration with changes in water and sewer rates. Homer Voice for Business also encouraged Stroozas to be on the Homer Advisory Planning Commission. It backed council member Gus VanDyke in the 2013 election and two unsuccessful candidates in the 2014 council election.
“I don’t want to come across as a politician, because I’m not,” Stroozas said. “I’m a businessman with common-sense philosophies.”
Stroozas said he sees the role of local government as simple.
“It’s to ensure the health, safety and welfare of the community,” he said. “You manage your financial resources in a wise and prudent manner. You don’t live beyond your means. You have to balance your needs and wants.”
Doing that requires compromise.
“When you compromise, everybody wins,” Stroozas said. “My goal is to bring an additional business mindset to local government so that we can explore the best ways to do things for this community that do not have an adverse impact on health, safety and welfare.”