Most of Shauna Thornton’s afternoon on Oct. 29 was spent spinning out cotton candy. The next day, she manned a station on the Tsalteshi Trails system where miniature witches, goblins and ghouls tossed beanbags and collected candy on their way through the woods.
Her presence at the two Halloween weekend events is old hat, though. Thornton, who is making a run on the Democratic ticket for the Alaska House of Representatives District 30 seat, has been a nearly perennial volunteer in the community since she arrived in the community from Las Vegas, Nevada in 1991.
Thornton has served on the Board of Directors at ARTSPace, INC in Soldotna and of the Kenai Fine Art Center in Kenai. She has hosted tables at the Kenai River Marathon. She has been present at events ranging from community meetings on heroin addiction to public hearings for oil leasing on the Outer Continental Shelf. When she was an undergraduate student at Kenai Peninsula College, she served in the student government and represented the University of Alaska system’s students on the Coalition of Student Leaders. She is currently a member of Kenai’s Harbor Commission, which advises the city government on harbor development issues.
One of her first positions was at the Boys and Girls Club of the Kenai Peninsula. Kim Dent, the Kenai clubhouse director, knew her then and has worked with her during her subsequent volunteer positions there. She has cleaned up the Kenai beaches and volunteered for the Halloween events in the past, Dent said. Throughout her activities, Thornton always stays energetic and listens to people, she said.
“She does excellent,” Dent said. “She gets her little ball of fire under her and gets going. (She is) positive — ‘just go do work.’”
These days, she splits her time between Kenai Peninsula College, where she works as the Student Government Advisor, and Joseph Kashi’s law office, where she works as a legal assistant. Kashi said he’s known her for about four years, both through Kenai Peninsula College and as an employee. One of the most noticeable things about Thornton is her energy, he said.
“She has a lot of energy, she has a huge amount of public spirit, involvement in a lot of things, from the harbor commission to the college to the art stuff,” he said. “She has excellent people skills.”
She also has good ideas and contributes to the community, Kashi said.
“She doesn’t let difficulties or setbacks get her down for any length of time,” he said. “She’s one of these people who just keep forging on.”
Other than elections in Kenai Peninsula College’s student government and membership on the Kenai Harbor Commission, Thornton has never held public office. She ran against Rep. Kurt Olson (R-Kenai) in 2014, ultimately unsuccessfully, claiming about 26 percent of the vote to Olson’s 74 percent. At that time, Thornton didn’t have much experience running a campaign, but she seems to have figured it out this time around, said Soldotna resident Eric Treider, who ran unsuccessfully against Sen. Peter Micciche (R-Soldotna) at the same time Thornton ran against Olson. At the time, she and Treider shared resources between their campaigns and helped each other out, he said.
“She’s a very caring person,” he said. “She’d give you the shirt off her back, if you asked for it. I think the world of her, and I know if she were to win office, she would really serve the people of her district really well.”
Treider said he also appreciates that she has a business background — Thornton is working toward a Master’s degree in public administration — that would help her make budget decisions in the Legislature.
“She’s got a business background, and the Republican legislators who pride themselves on being business men and women are not running the state like a business,” he said. “If they ran their business like they’re running the state, they’d be bankrupt in no time. Shauna understands that. We can’t cut our way into solvency and at some point we need to revisit our oil tax production system.”
Reach Elizabeth Earl at email@example.com.