In the upcoming municipal elections, the Soldotna Mayor’s seat and two Soldotna City Council seats are open. Current city council member Pamela Parker is running unopposed for the city council. She spoke with the Clarion on Sept. 11 about her candidacy. The interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Why did you decide to run for reelection?
Parker: I’m a small business owner in Soldotna. My family moved into the city limits about three, four years ago now, and we just love it. We love Soldotna, and we want to see it continue on the path that it’s already on.
With a great small business community that is building and has a very bright future, we want to make sure that that still happens, that we have walkable, bikeable areas in our community for kiddos and families to enjoy. And that is really why I wanted to continue on with being on city council — just to make sure that we can keep Soldotna on that great path that it’s already on.
How do you view your role on the city council and what skills or qualifications do you bring to the council?
Parker: I think I bring a couple different perspectives to the group. I think I’ve got a small business owner perspective, when it comes to making decisions that would impact the small business community.
I’ve got the family perspective, we’ve got a little foster son. So that really helps when we’re talking about things like redoing roads and whether or not we should widen the sidewalk on a specific road — so that more families can walk together, down and you don’t have one or two members of the family walking in the street, things like that.
I also feel like I bring a little bit of a younger voice to council, and I think that that sometimes helps, you know — I’m not super entrenched in politics. This is literally month eight of me being involved in local government. So I still have fresh eyes and a fresh young take on different ways things can be done and I think different perspectives that might not have been looked at before by some of the older, more politically entrenched individuals.
What would be one of your biggest priorities as a council member if elected?
Parker: That’s kind of a weird question … when I was initially appointed and started in January, COVID was not a real big concern. Since March, that has literally been everything that everyone has been focusing on. So kind of to try to answer that question now, compared to how I might have answered in January, I think, is very different.
But I think if I look at it from a perspective of what would be best for the business community in our town as we’re moving forward, going through COVID — so what funds might be available to support our small businesses that then hire our friends and neighbors to work for them and, you know, what might be available for improvements to make our town look better, that encourages small businesses to stay in the area or to open brick and mortar locations.
I think just navigating not only improvements to our already pretty wonderful small business community, but how do we continue on that path during this crazy time that no one was really expecting to happen?
Q: How do you feel the city has been handling COVID-19 so far?
Parker: I would say about as well as we could. I mean, we’ve got funds going out to small businesses, to nonprofits in the area of funds allocated to help, folks with housing issues, water and utility relief efforts.
There’s been a lot that the city has done closing certain city-run buildings right at the beginning, in order to come up with a COVID mitigation plan for safe ways for residents to interact with those facilities — for example, the library — and then actually getting those spaces back open to the public as quickly as possible, so that residents can still utilize those functions. I think that, again, no one was prepared for this, and I think that the City of Soldotna has done an excellent job of pivoting this year in handling the situation that they were thrown.
Do you think anything should be changed or addressed going into the fall/winter months?
Parker: Yes, I mean, we’re gonna be looking at a second round of CARES funding for businesses, for nonprofits, and I’m also hoping for more CARES funding for individuals as well.
Because maybe the CARES funding that the city has already provided or is looking to provide in the future doesn’t necessarily hit your family directly. Maybe you don’t own a small business or work for a small business, or maybe the nonprofits don’t necessarily serve you in a particular way.
So finding out where those gaps are, and seeing where we can use the funding that we do have left to fill those gaps so that all of our residents’ benefit.
COVID aside, what are some of your biggest concerns for the city going into 2021, and do you have any plans to address those concerns?
Parker: My business is … we’re in it today, and we have to manage what’s going on in front of us today. But we also still need to be looking forward and making sure that we’ve got a future as a city. And I think that we’ve already got a wonderful comprehensive plan in place.
We have great staff that works for the city, and we know where we want to go. COVID has kind of derailed that slightly, but we’re not entirely off the tracks. We can still push forward towards our goals with our comprehensive plan. A walkable, bikeable downtown area with a thriving business community, connected pathways throughout town, things like that.
So those are definitely the priorities that I would like us to continue to focus on in 2021. I think that we’re already still headed in that direction. It’s just that now we’re, I mean, everyone’s been in crisis management mode with COVID.
Is there anything else you would like to talk about or think people should know?
Parker: I’ve enjoyed my first eight months on city council, and I look forward to the next three years. I really think that, again, I can bring a good perspective. I mean, not only a young perspective, business owner or family perspective, to the council. … I think that diversity really helps. And just making sure that we keep our eyes focused on where we were already headed with the city, and just making sure that we’re taking care of our residents while we’re still trying to accomplish those goals that we already had in place before COVID.