Soldotna City Council members thank outgoing council member Justin Ruffridge for his years of service to the city during a council meeting on Wednesday, Dec. 14, 2022 in Soldotna, Alaska.. Ruffridge was elected last month to the Alaska Legislature. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)

Soldotna City Council members thank outgoing council member Justin Ruffridge for his years of service to the city during a council meeting on Wednesday, Dec. 14, 2022 in Soldotna, Alaska.. Ruffridge was elected last month to the Alaska Legislature. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)

4 vie for vacant Soldotna council seat

City council members will interview applicants Wednesday

Members of the Soldotna City Council will pick during their Wednesday night meeting a replacement for former city council member Justin Ruffridge, who was elected to the Alaska Legislature last November. Per a memo to council members from Soldotna City Clerk Johni Blankenship, the city received four applications for the vacancy.

Sitting Soldotna City Council members will interview applicants during the body’s Wednesday meeting and then vote for the candidate they want to fill the vacancy. That’s according to the city’s procedures for appointing a qualified person to fill a city council vacancy. A successful candidate must receive three votes and will then be administered their oath of office.

Applications submitted by Julie Kincaid, Larry Opperman, Donica Nash and Chera Wackler are included in the council’s Wednesday meeting packet. The city solicited applications for the vacancy between Dec. 19 and Jan. 3. Those interested in serving on the council must have been a resident of Soldotna for at least one year, be a citizen of the United States and be a qualified city voter.

Julie Kincaid is a stay-at-home mom who holds a Bachelor of Arts in economics from the University of Washington. Kincaid in her application describes herself as “politically moderate and financially conservative” and said she tends to be “thoughtful and analytical when making decisions.”

“On the City Council, I would work to preserve what makes Soldotna so unique, while also making sure it is a welcoming place for all,” Kincaid wrote in her letter of interest to council members. “I would vote to enhance education and public amenities, while understanding the role of the city in supporting the everyday activities and rights of its members.”

Larry Opperman is a former environmental scientist with the U.S. Air Force at Elmendorf Air Force Base and member of a state committee that implemented the Clean Air Act and Clean Air Act Amendments of 1990 in Alaska. He currently serves on the Central Peninsula Garden Club’s board of directors and is a former member of the Kenai Soil & Water Conservation District.

“Soldotna is a wonderful community and I would be honored to be a representative for all city residents and business interests,” Opperman wrote in his letter of interest.

Donica Nash is an English and history teacher at River City Academy and holds a Bachelor of Arts in classical studies and a Master of Arts in teaching. She is a former library assistant at the Soldotna Public Library, which she said in her application showed her the “hard work” that goes into running a city.

“Since then, I have been teaching 7-12th grades and recently came off a semester of teaching debate, a subject that fueled my desire for a council seat,” Nash wrote in her interest statement. “Respectful, productive discourse is of utmost importance right now, no matter the topic.”

Chera Wackler is the clinic director at Phormation Chiropractic and the founder of the Kenai Peninsula Period Network, which aims to make free menstrual products available in Kenai Peninsula Borough School District schools. She holds a Bachelor of Science in business administration and applied visual arts.

“Even though the national stage gets more play in conversations of politics I view the role of local government to be a much higher degree and immediate impact on the lives of its citizens,” Wackler wrote in her letter of interest. “There is a great responsibility placed on the Soldotna City Council members to guide rules and help Soldotna not only provide adequate services but to enrich the lives of residents of the whole Kenai Peninsula.

Whoever is appointed to fill the council vacancy during Wednesday’s meeting will serve out the remainder of Ruffridge’s term, which expires in October 2023. Wednesday’s Soldotna City Council meeting will be held Wednesday at Soldotna City Hall and can be streamed on the city’s website at

Reach reporter Ashlyn O’Hara at

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