Paul Whitney, who currently serves on the Soldotna City Council, is running unopposed to replace Pete Sprague as mayor of Soldotna. The Clarion interviewed Whitney on Sept. 15.
Why did you decide to run for mayor of Soldotna?
Whitney: It was unexpected that Mayor Sprague wasn’t going to run again. It kind of took me by surprise. So at that point in time, I discussed it with my wife and decided to go ahead and do it. I’ve been on the council for seven years and have the background and know what’s currently going on in the city and felt I’d be a good fit.
You obviously currently sit on the Soldotna City Council. What skills or qualifications do you think that you’d be bringing to the table as mayor that may transfer from what you’re currently doing on the council?
Whitney: Just familiarity with the city, what’s been going on. I’ve been on the council now for seven years and I had previous experience up in Fairbanks and knowing the current issues facing the city and my involvement over the years.
If elected mayor, what would be one of your biggest priorities, policy-wise?
Whitney: Right now it’s to get everything back to as close to normal as it was a year ago, after the COVID issues now, and to try and keep our businesses, small business owners open and operational and help out the citizens in Soldotna as much as we can with the CARES funding that’s been made available to us and try to get back to a normal lifestyle again.
How do you think the city has been handling COVID-19 so far?
Whitney: So far, I think we’ve done a very good job. The funding is being made available. We’ve got a lot of different programs online to get that funding out to the nonprofits and to the small business owners. Trying to help out homeowners and renters with different programs, and there will be even more coming out and hopefully maybe even get some direct funding to the residents themselves.
Is there anything that you think should be changed or specifically addressed related to COVID as the city heads into the fall and winter months?
Whitney: No, I think we’ve done a good job. I know we had a discussion at the last meeting over the opening of the sports center for winter activities. I think we probably are going to reconsider the number of people who can attend those events. It was a little low, the original numbers, and I think our consensus was we should try to open it up a little bit more so more people can get out, parents who can both go to see their kids play.
COVID aside, heading in 2021 are there any other issues that you would hope to address?
Whitney: Right now that’s the main one. Once we can get back to — maybe we’ll never get back to the way it used to be — but at least to a little better semblance of what it was. Improvements in our services and new roads, sidewalks, bike paths, things that will benefit the community as a whole. There’s some remodeling plans for the sports center to make it more attractive and useful. And those are the kinds of things that I’d like to see done when we get back to, like I said, a more normal state.
Is there anything that you want to talk about or you think people should know that maybe I didn’t ask you?
Whitney: I think you’ve probably covered most everything that’s going on. Like I said, the COVID issue has just changed our whole outlook on how to do things and it’s been pretty tough on the small business owners, tourism being down and just people just not getting out as much as they used to.
I even find myself spending more time at home than I normally would than being out in the community.