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Wednesday, November 04, 2015

Politics take back seat to night drive

By Zoya Saltonstall
Published in Kodiak Daily Mirror on October 22nd, 2015

Mom, wait. I’m confused.  I thought our mayor is a girl, not a guy” my daughter, Nora questioned me. 

It was a rainy windy Thursday evening. Nora and I were getting settled into our chairs at the toasty borough assembly chambers. 

We arrived 25 minutes before the borough assembly meeting started and sat in the front left row by the window. The assembly members trickled in, conversed with each other and sat in their executive assembly chairs. Nora asked who everyone was and what their jobs were. 

I explained how we have two mayors in Kodiak: a borough mayor and city mayor. Jerrol Friend is our borough mayor. Pat Branson is the city mayor and that was who she was thinking of. I explained the difference between city and borough and how our family lives in the borough. 

This was Nora’s first time being at such a public meeting. She was curious about what a public meeting is like and since she cares about the future of Termination Point, I figured this would be a good one for us  to go to together.   

I remember my fascination with elected public officials as a child. My very young self saw it all as a little king-queen-ish. My late father, Dave Herrnsteen, was on the Kodiak school board for several terms and borough mayor for a term back in the 1980s. I don’t remember his time as borough mayor, I was too young. On the school board I remember him coming home with super-thick meeting packets he would read through. And he would frequently get pulled aside at the post office to talk with neighbors and friends about school board subjects. 

Half an hour into Thursday’s meeting, Nora started showing signs of fading — slumping over tired and sending me looks of disgust for still being there. Her eyebrows were furrowing at me. The clock was approaching 8. It was a school night and she (thankfully) relishes her 8 p.m. bedtime. 

On the drive home, Nora was very much convinced that borough assembly meetings were the most boring things on earth. What was exciting to her was that it was her first “night drive” this fall. Seeing the street lights and oncoming headlights of traffic was a novelty. Simple joys for 10-year-olds. 

I tuned into the meeting on public radio KMXT as we drove home. By the time we left the meeting, the Termination Point testimony hadn’t yet started; there were several awards and reports presented. Not terribly exciting. But important, yes.   

After Nora was tucked into bed and as the rain hammered against my kitchen window, I  followed the assembly votes on the Termination Point negotiations as they rolled in. The next morning when Nora woke up, she was curious what the outcome was. 

I explained how the four votes in favor of negotiations were reflections of the people who filled the borough assembly chambers two weeks in a row. The two votes opposing the negotiations left many puzzled. 

That rainy Thursday night was an eye-opening borough assembly meeting for Nora and me, but for different reasons. 

For Nora, she learned about the difference between the borough and city mayor. She saw first-hand how meetings can be boring.  

For me, I became even more grateful for engaged, responsive borough assembly members. These elected officials who can look constituents in the eye, email back and have dialogue and interaction. 

And most importantly, assembly members who vote on behalf of the  wishes of the community. 

Kodiak resident Zoya Saltonstall is a mother of two and a physical therapist. She loves black labs and chocolate.

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