Homer Alaska - News

Story last updated at 12:13 PM on Wednesday, September 12, 2012

School Board
    Challenger: Mike Illg

His motivation includes his family, a desire to improve communication

By McKibben Jackinsky
Staff Writer

Mike Illg points to his young family and an old saying to explain his candidacy for Homer's representative on the Kenai Peninsula Borough School Board.

"I have a vested interest in seeing things happen in a positive manner," said Illg, referring to his daughter, Madilyn, 3. "And the old saying is, 'If you want to see something happen, get in there and make it happen.'"

Improving communication and representation also fuel Illg's run for office.

Mike Illg


Mike Illg

Residence: Homer

Occupation: Community recreation-schools coordinator, city of Homer

Spouse: Cheryl Wambach

Children: Madilyn, 3

Alaska residency: 12 years

Education: associate degree, liberal arts and sciences, Middlesex Community College; bachelor of science, parks and recreation management, Northern Arizona University; master of science, recreation, sports and tourism, University of Illinois (expected graduation 2013).

Political and governmental experience: Student body president, Middlesex Community College, 1998-1999.

Business and professional positions: Certified parks and recreational professional (CPRP) through National Parks and Recreation Association.

Service organization membership: Board member and section chair, Alaska Recreation and Parks Association; 9-year member of the SAFE Kids Coalition of Homer; vice president-treasurer, Homer Popeye Wrestling Club.

Contact: Phone 235-0798 or email ignipar@aol.com.

"What I hear from the community is that there's a sense of disconnect, which is not necessarily a negative issue, but more of an efficiency issue," said Illg. He pointed to challenges resulting from the school district's central peninsula base of operations, as well as the district's size, 25,600 square miles.

"In a perfect world, Central Office would be located in Homer and we'd have more face time and personal connections with the administration," said Illg. "This school district is geographically huge and diverse. Communication is absolutely the key to success."

Illg described the current chain of communication as beginning with school principals or building administrators focused on their own interests, buildings and students.

"We must be able to adequately communicate the educational needs of the community that would otherwise be considered if there were a more personal connection and contact with district administrators," said Illg. "That's why the role of school board representative is significant."

Illg's suggestions for improving communications include more visits to Homer by school board members and district administrators, a possible satellite administrative office in Homer and more than one school board meeting in Homer each year.

"If Joe Average goes to the store and runs into, for example, the superintendent, there would be significant personal contact that may present an internal and informal understanding of issues and concerns in our community such as the potential busing and school hour changes," said Illg.

Regarding personal and professional accomplishments, Illg acknowledged the value of his educational experiences.

"I'm not sure where I'd be if I didn't have the public educational experience I had," said Illg, one of the first in his family to attend college. "Schools have always been a safe haven and a starting point of so many things in my life and others. Not just providing an education, but real life experiences about being a caring, considerate and mindful person."

Participation in local organizations were noted by Illg as reflecting his interest in the community: Kachemak Bay Running Club, Homer's SAFE Kid Coalition and cycling, wrestling and soccer organizations. He is active with the Alaska Recreation and Parks Association and for the past nine years has been professionally involved with community schools. An advocate of lifelong learning, Illg has an associate degree, a bachelor of science degree and is working on a master of science degree.

"I'm a big believer in creating a safe educational environment, providing lifelong opportunities and opportunities for making some lifelong memories and a quality staff is paramount to the success of accomplishing these opportunities," said Illg.

Of incumbent Liz Downing, Illg said, "I feel she cares about the school district and is knowledgeable and certainly should be commended for her years of experience as Homer's school board representative."

However, he believes Downing lacks "local involvement to represent the true needs and voices of Homer."

Summing up what distinguishes him from Downing, Illg said, "Regardless of experience, I think now is a great time to change, to get a new perspective, new representation. I definitely have the energy, the knowledge and the desire to get involved, represent Homer and try to find the best way to look out for the interests of our community."

From his community involvement, Illg said he is aware of a lot of young families struggling to survive.

"That's the demographic I can strongly represent," he said. "I think I have a very good idea of what the community is feeling, doing and needing, not just about good education, but a re-evaluation of the role that schools have and what they mean to our community."

In summary, he said, "Our schools must continue to seek ways to support the whole being of each student and support all community members, especially in a community our size. We simply rely on a school district to be the anchor of so many variables in our lives."