Anderson an inspiration to run for office

Wanted: Homer City Council members. Minimum qualifications: 18 or older, U.S. citizen, a registered voter in the city of Homer, and a resident for at least one year. Pay: $75 a council meeting day for at least two meetings a month. Work load includes reading thick council packets, attending meetings, and responding to citizen emails and phone calls. May be subject to recall for causes loosely defined. Hazards include long meetings, verbal abuse and tirades on social media. Candidates are subject to approval by the voters. Apply at city clerk’s office.

Next Tuesday at noon the filing period ends for the Homer City Council elections. With council members David Lewis and Catriona Reynolds not running for re-election, two 3-year seats are open. As of press time, two candidates have filed, Sarah Vance and Kimberly Ketter.

Given the drama of the recall campaign against council members Donna Aderhold, Lewis and Reynolds, it’s not surprising only two people so far have filed for office — and one of them, Vance, helped lead the recall. Between February and July, Homer went through one of its nastiest periods in political history.

Right or not, the recall turned neighbors against neighbors and small town politics into a sewer lagoon of anger, confusion, misunderstanding and ugliness. It will take a lot of compassion and healing to get over the recall. That the recall was soundly rejected suggests most Homer voters felt the alleged grounds lacked merit and that taking a controversial stand, however unpopular, did not mean a council member’s term should be ended prematurely.

It’s also possible citizens seeking to serve their community have burned out. In the 2015 election we had six candidates and a race so close that Beau Burgess and Heath Smith went into a run-off election. Last year, only three candidates ran for two seats.

Yeah, it can be a rough job, but if you’re intelligent, hard working, diligent, honest and considerate, your city needs you. What we need are women and men who can be like Margaret Anderson.

In Homer city politics, Anderson set the mold for being a good public official. Last Friday, one of the founders of this community died at age 94. We’re lucky that in 1947 at age 24, on a whim the young Margaret Szili decided to move to Alaska. She met her husband, Fred Anderson, on the plane to Kodiak. They settled in Homer in the early 1950s.

In 1955, Anderson became the first woman elected to public office in Homer, the Public Utility District No. 1. She later was elected to the Homer City Council in 1979. She had qualities that made her an ideal council member, like being prepared for every meeting and always reading the council packet.

Friend Larry Smith called her “ego free,” and said she knew how to be a gracious loser.

“She thought that being straightforward was the key to getting things done. Even if you were on the losing side, you didn’t go sulk; you put your shoulder to the wheel and got the work done,” he said.

Anderson knew how to get along with political opponents, too. Though she disagreed with Homer Thompson, another political activist, they remained good friends, Smith said.

Her former son-in-law, Brian Bennett, said, “Margaret focused on the strongest argument, not the loudest voice.”

We know Homer has citizens who might have some of the qualities of a Margaret Anderson. We know this town has people who care about our community — a lot of people, actually — and have the time, energy and commitment to serve on the council.

We also know that the recall soured a lot of citizens on serving. A hard job has become that much more difficult and unpleasant. It will take tough, resilient people brave enough and strong enough to serve their community. We know you’re out there. Step up. Be like Margaret Anderson.

- Michael Armstrong, editor

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