Homer City Council member Tom Stroozas has spent the last three years trying to help improve the city through projects and initiatives, and said he’s hoping to continue doing that for another term.
Stroozas is up for reelection in the Oct. 1 municipal election. His seat and council member Shelly Erickson’s seat are both up for reelection. Stroozas and Erickson are both running for reelection, while two newcomers also run for those seats.
Stroozas, who first ran for council back in 2015 but was unsuccessful, has served as a council member since 2016. He and his wife, Debbie, have lived in Homer since 2006. Stroozas retired from Piedmont Natural Gas Company in 2006 shortly before moving to Alaska. He said he and Debbie first came to Homer in 2000 and thereafter began building a house here in anticipation of retiring in Homer.
Stroozas is running for another term on the council in part because he’s enjoyed his last three years doing it, he said.
“We have really accomplished a lot of really important things for this community,” Stroozas said.
He referenced several projects he’s been a part of on the council over the past three years, including getting the plans in place to build a new police station, the extension of Greatland Street and coming to consensus on what to do about the Homer Education and Recreation Center (HERC) buildings.
“That was such a controversial item for several years,” Stroozas said of the police station. “And we finally got buy-in by the public and were able to proceed.”
He praised the cooperating and compromising that went into finding a home for a new police station.
“The thing about our current council makeup, is the six of us all worked together, whether our opinions on some issues from time to time differ or not,” Stroozas said. “This was such a major thing for our community that we put all of our differences aside and we worked to consensus to make it happen.”
Stroozas said he’s also proud of the fact that the council voted not to raise water and sewer rates this year when that option was before them. Stroozas personally embarked on a mission to cut costs at the city level by making small changes on the energy consumption front. He described sitting in a meeting one day and looking up at the lights above the council.
“I’m counting all these up and I’m writing all this down,” he said. “… I get home and I put my pencil to this. The next day I went in and sat down with our city manager.”
Stroozas brought forth measures at the council level to switch to LED lighting in municipal buildings, using the city’s existing staff as they had time available.
“We reduced energy costs throughout all of our municipal buildings, not just this year but in perpetuity,” he said. “… As the utility costs go up, which they are generally subject to do, the cost savings to the city and the community will just be that much more.”
Going forward, the HERC is still an issue for the council to grapple with. After recent work sessions, there is general consensus on the council that demolition of the existing buildings is the best next step. The council does not want to sell the actual land, though.
“We don’t want to divest ourselves of that property, because it is a real showcase at 4.3 acres of land,” Stroozas said. “… We can find a good community use for it whether it be a community and convention center, whether it be a recreation center, who knows? But over the coming year, that is a task that the council is going to work diligently on to come up with a facility that the public will applaud, and I hope I can be reelected to be part of that process.”
Other things the city ought to focus on are maintaining and expanding the Homer port and harbor, Stroozas said, because this is a major area of revenue.
“Harbor expansion, large vessel haul out — those are projects that are going to take considerable state and federal monies to help us with, but it’s something in the forefront because it deals with our harbor, which is a big financial contributor to the community,” he said.
In addition to the harbor, Stroozas sees tourism and the health care industry as major contributors to Homer’s economy. In the absence of state assistance as Alaska grapples with its own funding woes, Stroozas said bolstering these three areas of the local economy as much as possible will be important.
Stroozas also wants to continue finding ways to cut energy costs. He’d like to further explore maximizing the use of natural gas in municipal buildings where it would be more economical than electric heat.
“There are a number of ways that we can reduce city expenses without cutting services, and that’s what some of these ideas have demonstrated,” he said.
Asked why he would want to run for another term, Stroozas said he’s always had a passion for public service. He was president of the Homer Elks Club for two years and is currently serving as a trustee. He also spent four years on the Homer Planning and Zoning Commission.
“The community in which we live and work is only as good as the people who live and work in it,” Stroozas said. “And Homer is very blessed because we have a lot of nonprofits here … and the bulk of people who help in their efforts are volunteers.”
When it comes to working with other council members, Stroozas described himself as an optimist and said he’s likes working to find compromise.
“I’ve enjoyed the journey,” he said. “I’ve been able to smile about our accomplishments and I have ideas going forward where we can even accomplish more.”
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