I came to Alaska as an idealistic young man. A few years out of college and filled with grand ideas, I landed a summer job in Denali National Park. Needless to say, the experience was life changing for someone who grew up thinking of Pennsylvania as the wild west. I really thought I had a good grasp on how things operate and that others should always agree with my positions on world affairs. I quickly came to understand that I had a lot to learn.
When I settled down in the Fritz Creek area in 1987, I purchased a small chunk of land at the edge of McNeil Canyon and began to carve out a home for my family. I built a small cabin, cleared land for a garden and got to know my neighbors. One of my first lessons there was the importance of cooperating for our mutual benefit. I used to tell stories about how I built a cabin by myself, but the truth is I had many helping hands. When I hunted, fished and harvested the garden to fill our freezer and root cellar, I was never alone. One of my most helpful neighbors was the old Swiss homesteader who taught me volumes, not only about providing for my family, but also about how our local governments function. He taught me that to get things done we need to participate rather than simply complain.
As my daughter grew, I better understood the importance of education and of our public school system. I got to know the school staff and learned much from them. I joined the school Site Council, participated in the decision making processes and came to understand how we all benefit from well educated children.
I often struggled as a young man here, especially after becoming a single parent. I juggled work, family life, and other obligations. I once resorted to borrowing $400 from a kind friend and neighbor in order to pay my property taxes. I became a fiscal conservative in order to get by.
I’m now well into the second half of life, my daughter grown into a responsible adult. My wife and I enjoy an amazing life here with opportunities not found in many parts of the United States. When I tell friends and family in other states how much our property taxes are, they are often amazed at how little we pay. It doesn’t seem like a small amount to me, but when I inventory the benefits we receive in the form of road maintenance, solid waste disposal, EMS and fire protection, schools for our next generation, and a fine hospital when needed, I have to admit it isn’t too bad of a deal.
We still hunt, fish, and garden to supplement our store bought food and we bask in the beauty of our natural surroundings. And I still participate, hopefully after October 6 as your representative on the Borough Assembly.