Homer Alaska - News

Story last updated at 6:20 PM on Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Burgess: Offers youth, business experience

By Michael Armstrong
Staff Writer

Among Homer City Council members and candidates, Beauregard "Beau" Burgess stands out for his youth and business experience. Appointed to fill former council member Kevin Hogan's seat when Hogan stepped down last April after he filed a lawsuit against the city over alleged unfair lease practices, it's not just that Burgess is the only council member or candidate under 30. Most of the other council members and the other two council candidates have a public sector background, Burgess said.

Beau Burgess


Beau Burgess

Age: 27

Occupation: Entrepreneur/small business owner

Spouse: None

Children: None

Alaska resident: 7 years

Homer resident: 7 years

Education: High School, 2 years college and vocational

Political and governmental experience: Appointed Homer City Council, April 2012

Business and professional positions: Owner/manager - Southern Exposure LLC, construction and excavation; owner/manger - Homer Bookkeepers, LLC; secretary - SPITwSPOTS Inc.

Service Organization Memberships: Member - KBBI AM 890; member - Homer Chamber of Commerce and Visitor Center; volunteer - Homer Playground Project (HOPP), Karen Hornaday Park

Email: tassadar4t@gmail.com

Blog: beauregardburgess.posterous.com

"It might not be the PC (politically correct) thing to say, but demographically the council is pretty homogenous," he said. "The temptation to pass omnibus sign codes and to legislate is maybe a little bit easier to act on if you know your livelihood is tied to the public sector."

The owner of two small businesses, Homer Bookkeepers and Southern Exposure, a residential construction company that also installs wind turbines, as a young adult Burgess knew he wanted to be an entrepreneur. He is the only child of parents working in the academic field; his father taught environmental science and his mother is an ethno botanist.

His dad is from Texas and his mother from Virginia, and to honor their Southern heritage they named Burgess after Pierre Gustave Toutant Beauregard, the Confederate general who fired the first shots on Fort Sumter that started the Civil War. Burgess grew up in Tucson, Ariz., where his father worked as one of the original designers of Biosphere II, an ambitious project to build a working ecosystem separate from the planet.

"I grew up in that theater of possibilities — space hippies," Burgess said. "When you're a kid, you think every other kid grew up the way you grew up. When I look back on it, it was very interesting."

As the son of scientists, Burgess said he was expected to go to college and get an advanced degree. Instead, he went to what could be called Uncollege.

"I'm more a hands-on, experiential learner," he said.

For example, he lived in Taiwan to learn Mandarin Chinese and in Central America to learn Spanish. When he needed to learn a skill, he took a college course like bookkeeping. He has the equivalent of an associate of arts degree, though no formal degree, he said. He continues to take continuing education courses.

"Everything from welding to septic systems design to more accounting classes," Burgess said. "I definitely would consider myself a lifelong learner. Having a skill set to start a business, build a house, dig a ditch — these are important things to me."

Now 27, Burgess first came to Alaska and Homer at age 20 with a high school friend who worked for a Native corporation.

"When I got to Homer, I said, all right, this is it, I'm staying," he said. "The next year I came back and never left."

Now living at the edge of city limits in the Eagle View subdivision off West Hill Road, he also is the only council member who still uses an outhouse — an outhouse that's heated. For watering animals and gardens he has a spring, but gets drinking water from town.

His background as a young adult trying to build a business gives him a different perspective than his colleagues, Burgess said.

"I feel like the concerns of young people definitely, young and in the middle of their lives, are something close to my mind," he said. "I own businesses that have to deal with city regulations. I am a young person having to get sewer and water to my house."

He also brings a different voice, Burgess said.

"As a council, our strength comes from diversity of perspective, the ability to understand and evaluate the issues and to actually come to consensus and address in a rational way the community long-term needs," he said. "If there's a demographic or perspective missing, important things get overlooked."

Issues important to him are what he calls "unsexy" — city services and infrastructure, including natural gas. He was the only sponsor of the local improvement district plan to build out the Homer natural gas trunk line to every possible lot in the city. Providing things like roads, utilities, fire and police protection and the harbor are essential services and what government should do.

"Micromanaging people's lives and how they live is peripheral and should be considered very, very thoroughly before taking an action," Burgess said. "Just being a check and making sure the city stays uninvolved in things unless there's a clear public need and the private sector is unwilling, unlikely or unable to address it."

That might contradict things like his backing with council member David Lewis of the ban on thin, nonreusable plastic bags, Burgess admitted. He backed the ban because of the danger of plastics. Plastic bags have a cost on the environment. The only argument for plastic bags is convenience, he said.

However, given the public outcry, Burgess said he might not vote to override Mayor Hornaday's veto.

"Unless I see a really decisive level of support for the bag ban, I'm not likely to vote for it," he said.