Homer Alaska - News

Story last updated at 5:34 PM on Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Wythe: Mayor can help define city's future

By McKibben Jackinsky
Staff Writer

Having served on the Homer City Council since 2004 and as the city's mayor pro tempore, mayor when the elected mayor was unable to serve, Mary E. "Beth" Wythe has decided it's time to try a different seat. Namely, the mayor's.

Mary E. 'Beth' Wythe


Occupation: Human resources, 23 years

Spouse: John

Children: Katelyn and Kevin

Alaska resident: 39 years

Homer resident: 39 years

Education: Homer High School graduate, 1978; attended Hawaii Loa College and Western Washington University before completing an accounting certification course through Cannon Business College, Oahu, Hawaii, 1983; currently completing a bachelor's degree in business administration with a human resource focus and a minor in legal studies, University of Alaska Southeast.

Political and governmental experience: city of Homer council member, 2004-present; city of Homer mayor pro tempore, 2010-present; city of Homer Permanent Fund Committee; city council liaison to Economic Development Commission; Port and Harbor Improvement Committee; Water and Sewer Task Force; City Hall Expansion Project Committee (past).

Service organization memberships: Christian Community Church member and mission committee member; Kachemak Swim Club (past); Girl Scout troop leader (past) and lifetime member; USA Swimming, Alaska Board of Directors, Western Zone Championship Team Coordinator/Chaperone (past)

Contact: mewjcw@acsalaska.net

For one reason, current Mayor James Hornaday has chosen not to run.

"I wouldn't have run against him, but I've contributed eight years on the council, have a good history to bring with me, and the knowledge and ability about how the city operates," said Wythe. "It's time to step forward and do the next thing."

Wythe said that while the mayor represents the city, that position votes only to break a tie among council members, has veto rights and provides leadership and direction. She views that position as important in helping define the city's future.

"Homer needs to be very focused on economic development," said Wythe. "We need to figure out what it is we want as additional income-producing opportunities and then go out and actively seek them rather than waiting for someone to find us. Our economy won't survive if we don't do something. That's the immediate need to focus on."

Since being elected to the council, Wythe has seen a "huge improvement" in the city's financial condition.

"We now have six months of operating revenues in our reserve account and we have invested the last bit of money from Exxon into establishing a permanent fund," said Wythe. "If we get that to grow, it will generate a fund that can come back into the community."

As a council member, she also has supported reinitiating the city's economic development commission and has served as the council's liaison to that group. She served on the town center development committee and, as a member of the committee to renovate and add to city hall, she helped "extend its usefulness for a number of years." Serving on the city's port and harbor improvement committee, she has been concerned with "assets we are not maintaining and need to focus more energy on."

"Those are the most important things for me. Very much my focus is about the economy and the maintenance of the fiscal status of the city," said Wythe.

In addition to her service on the city council, Wythe has been active with Girl Scouts, served on the missions committee of her church, supported Alaska and USA Swimming while her two children were growing up and is currently working on a bachelor's degree in human resource and business management through the University of Alaska Southeast. Her anticipated completion date of that program is December 2013.

Also running for mayor is council member Bryan Zak and Wythe chose not to comment when asked about Zak's weaknesses or strengths.

"It's not so much that I'm running against him, but that we're both interested in providing this service and I'd be happy to do it if voters want me to do it," said Wythe.

While redistricting within the state doesn't change the area she would represent as the city's mayor, Wythe said it could impact the level of representation the city receives in the Legislature.

"Somehow your tendency is to represent your local community a little stronger than other communities that you don't look at every day," said Wythe.

The issues important to her have to do with the city's base economy.

"We've long been dependent on fishing and the tourist industry, but both of those are no guarantee. We need to have some form of economic stability that is more assured and sustainable," said Wythe. "Not that fishing and tourism are bad things, but we need to look outside the box for what opportunities there are to contribute to our sustainability."

When it comes to the proper role of city government, Wythe believes its function "is to provide those services that individuals cannot effectively create on their own." Among those, she listed road maintenance, police, fire and safety.

"There are other services that people begin to expect, social services that are more in line with nonprofit assistance funding," said Wythe. "Some of those are less core services. ... The question becomes what are citizens willing to pay for as opposed to what are leaders willing to sponsor. We are spending their money, managing their business. In order to do that we need to hear from them."

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