Who’s running for Homer mayor?

Editor’s note: This story has been changed to reflect that Chris Story is not running for Homer City Council, but has not decided if he will be a candidate for mayor. 


Candidate filing for the Oct. 7 municipal election, both the city of Homer and the Kenai Peninsula Borough, opens Aug. 1 and continues through Aug. 15. Names already are rising to the surface of who will and who will not run, with a fair amount of rumors added to the mix.

For instance, if you heard Chris Story, radio commentator and real estate broker, is running for one of two Homer City Council seats, he isn’t.

“I am not running,” Story told the Homer News on July 24. He has yet to decide if he will run for mayor, he said.

Beau Burgess, appointed to city council in April 2012 and elected in October 2012, and rumored to be running for mayor, gave a similar response when asked if his name would be on the October ballot for the mayor’s seat.

“That is not the case unless something major intervenes,” said Burgess.

Council member Bryan Zak’s name also can be removed from the list of rumored mayoral candidates. At least for now.

“At this point, I don’t think I would be (running for mayor),” said Zak, who was first elected to the council in 2008 and re-elected in 2010 and 2013. “I’m kind of learning to work well with the current mayor and feel pretty good about my role as a city council member at this point. Circumstances might change, but at this time, I don’t think that’s the case.”

The only one confirming her candidacy for mayor is Beth Wythe, who is completing her first two-year term as mayor following eight years serving on the city council.

“I am planning to run again,” said Wythe. “There are some things going on that I’d like to see finalized and I think that it’s good for the community to have some continuity.”

Among the projects Wythe would like to see to completion is work begun on a new community safety building, port and harbor maintenance and the new harbormaster’s office.

“I’m a human resource person, so, for me, part of the perspective I work from is making sure you’re being a good employer, providing a safe, effective environment for employees to do the best they can,” said Wythe who is employed as the human resource supervisor for Homer Electric Association. 

Wythe also believes the Legislature’s view of Homer is undergoing some change “in the big picture of how people perceive us in terms of being business-friendly and I’d like to continue promoting that,” she said.

The two city council seats on the ballot are currently filled by David Lewis and Barbara Howard. Lewis will be running for re-election; Howard will not.

Before moving to Homer full-time in 2004, Howard was elected as the city clerk for Morgan Hill, Calif., and went on to serve as the city clerk in the California cities of Lancaster and Freemont for a total of almost 20 years of public service in that state. She was appointed to the Homer City Council in April 2008, elected later that year and reelected in 2011.

Within the past year, Howard said she has undergone “life altering surgery” that has given her a “new norm.”

“That new norm is that my core body isn’t as stable as it should be. I fatigue quickly and I have limited physical ability,” said Howard. “In other words, if the council went out on a field trip, I wouldn’t be able to go. I’m not an equal anymore and that kills me. In order to shelter myself from that, I just need to say it’s time to go.”

Lewis decided to run for re-election because “I think I’ve learned a lot and can still be effective. I feel that I will do it for one more term and then that’s it, if people want me, because now I’m running on a record.”

He was first elected to the council in 2008 and again in 2011. Among the issues on Lewis’ record are the use of plastic bags (he was one of the sponsors behind an ordinance to decrease the use of disposable shopping bags) and sales tax (he authored an ordinance to repeal the seasonal tax exemption by council action only). He supports a trail connecting the Spit, Kachemak Drive and East End Trail, and would like to see the Kevin Bell Ice Arena’s funding problems resolved.

With two terms on the council, Lewis had two pieces of advice for potential candidates.

“Have lots of time available and have thick skin,” he said.

To date, two individuals have confirmed their candidacy for city council: Corbin Arno and Justin Arnold. 

“I’m running because of poor government. Instead of government working for the people, we have a government working against the people,” said Arno. 

Arnold returned to town earlier this week from commercial fishing, but said he did plan to file as a city council candidate.

In 2013, Arno and Arnold were two of four candidates running for two council positions. Gus VanDyke was the lead vote-taker; incumbent Zak retained his seat by a narrow margin over Arno; fourth-place Arnold requested a recount because of the close race between Zak and Arno.  

Homer voters also can expect to see one proposition on the city ballot. At its Monday meeting, the city council will be asked to vote on the wording of that proposition: “Shall a charter commission be elected to prepare a proposed charter?” A yes vote by city voters would open the door wider for exploration of turning Homer into a home-rule city. 

Seven individuals, the number required for the home-rule process, have successfully gathered the signatures needed to place themselves on the ballot as commissioner candidates should the proposition get voter approval: Ken Castner, Jon Faulkner, Marilyn Hueper, Paul Hueper, Lindianne Sarno, Doug Stark and Wythe.

Candidates for the Kenai Peninsula Borough ballot also can file from Aug. 1-Aug. 15. The ballot includes the borough mayor, a three-year term, and three borough assembly representatives including District 8-Homer, also a three-year term. That position is currently held by Bill Smith.

Elected in 2007, 2008 and 2011, Smith is no longer eligible for re-election because of assembly member term limits. Even without that limit, Smith said he would not run again.

“That’s my eighth year and that’s enough for me at the moment,” said Smith. 

He listed an ability to listen as the most important quality for serving on the assembly.

“If you listen to people, no matter what side of the issue they’re on, they typically have something that rings true that you should pay attention to,” said Smith. 

Kelly Cooper has confirmed that she is going to run as a candidate to represent Homer on the borough assembly. In 2011, Kelly, as well as Zak, ran against Smith. In a final count, Smith took 46.26 percent of the vote, Kelly took 29.87 percent and Zak 23.68 percent. 

Cooper said she believed that she and Zak “kind of diluted our own votes.” 

With Zak putting to rest the possibility he might enter the assembly race, Cooper said she decided to give it another go.

“I feel there’s a lot that can be done at the borough level and I want to be part of the process,” said Cooper. 

Service area seats on the ballot are:

• Seats A and E on the Anchor Point Fire and Emergency Medical Service Area Board;

• Seats B and E on the Seldovia Recreational Service Area Board;

• Seats A, B and D on the Kachemak Emergency Service Area Board; and

• Seats D, E, F and G on the South Kenai Peninsula Hospital Service Area Board.

Borough voters also may be deciding on a proposed bed tax (see related story, page 9). They also will vote on new boundaries for the South Kenai Peninsula Hospital Service Area, if the borough should conduct elections by mail (advisory vote only) and if the borough should exercise and fund limited animal control powers. 

McKibben Jackinsky can be reached at mckibben.jackinsky@homernews.com.

Municipal Election

When: Oct. 7

Filing period open: Aug. 1-15

ON BALLOT: Homer mayor, 2 Homer City Council seats, proposition on charter commission for Homer, borough mayor, Homer assembly seat, a possible bed tax propositions as well as propositions regarding new boundaries for South Kenai Peninsula Hospital Service Area, borough elections by mail (an advisory vote) and if the borough should exercise and fund limited animal control powers.