Kodiak Mayor Carolyn Floyd and city councilman Tom Walters have held their elected offices since 1993, overseeing a host of improvements to infrastructure and city services. Both decided to not run for re-election this year.
So, as the ceremonial leader of Kodiak city for nearly two decades, will people continue to call Carolyn Floyd “mayor” just as they affectionately call her husband, Joe, “coach” for all his work on behalf of local sports teams?
“I don’t know — probably,” Floyd said Wednesday, a day before turning over the reins of Kodiak to former city councilwoman Pat Branson.
Floyd said now that she is stepping aside, she plans to spend more time with family members who live both near and far. She has daughters in Cordova, California, Florida and New England.
“So we can just make the loop once or twice a year and see them,” Floyd said, “spend some time with them and get to know them.”
Floyd came to represent Kodiak, both nationally and internationally, after her retirement as director of Kodiak College, which she helped grow from college classes held in Kodiak High School.
“The college was a neat dream of mine,” Floyd said, “getting the land out there and then building the buildings one at a time.”
Back then, the Legislature had fewer problems to deal with and was open to the expansion of higher learning in Kodiak, she said. “We wanted this and we got it.”
Representing Kodiak on the state and national stage, Floyd became president of the Alaska Municipal League in 2000 and was named to the National League of Cities board of directors in 2002.
“That was good because they would ask about Kodiak and I would tell them this is what we’re doing, this is what’s happening,” she said.
Floyd said she was met with disbelief at times as she described Kodiak projects to city leaders from other parts of the country.
“They’ll say, well, how do you do that in Kodiak? And I say we just do it. We just go and do it and take care of things,” Floyd said.
Being mayor has been a tremendous learning experience, she said, and it has been interesting through the years to see city managers and council members come and go. Some took council seats only to swear off public service thereafter.
This past year, the National League of Cities nominated Floyd for the Women in Municipal Government Leadership Award, in recognition of her work for the city.
It was a different city council back in 1993 when they were elected, Walters remembered.
“The first council I was on was the old-time group (who) used to bring in beer and drink until they had fisticuffs,” Walters said. “They decided to ban drinking at the meetings.”
Walters, along with Floyd and Charlie Davidson, who also was first elected in 1993, were struck by the some of those old ways and strove to change them.
“Quite frankly, all of our councils, we’ve respected each other,” Walters said, even when issues could get hot and council members didn’t agree.
Remembering one issue that divided Kodiak, Walters mentioned approving Kodiak’s Walmart back in 1994.
When considering hard decisions that will affect the community, Walters said the only way forward is to make the decision by considering the whole.
The result of Walmart’s introduction has been cheaper goods for people in Kodiak and an increased tax base for the city to develop roads and other projects, Walters said.
“If you want to make your judgement on how many votes you are going to get, then you shouldn’t be there,” Walters said. “I’ve done some really unpopular things that a lot of people clamored against me.”
However, Walters said he always did what he felt was right for the community and found he was re-elected time and again for making his stands.
One trend Walters has seen on city council is how the general public doesn’t have patience and wants projects done right away.
Meanwhile, the city council has to consider the resources that are available, then allocate those resources to maintain infrastructure first. Only afterward can they look to build quality of life projects, he said. He cited the city ice rink as one project he supported when times were good.
Walters nicknamed a combined Kodiak police, fire and city hall structure the “Taj Mahal” during planning for the project. That name stuck, and the project was later scaled down to include just a new Kodiak police building.
“If you don’t have the money, step back and reduce the scope or wait,” Walters said.
Walters said while he was always interested in local politics and minored in political science during college, his motivation to enter public service was triggered by a disaster. His house on Cope Street was hit by a mudslide in 1991.
“It filled the whole bottom of the house, and that stuff is like concrete,” he said. “It took a whole lot of volunteers, including the city, to help clean up.”
After he retired from the military, Walters said he wanted to find some way to repay that service.
“I don’t really know after 18 years if I’ve helped repay or if I’ve screwed things up,” Walters said. “That was my motive, to pay back. I wasn’t counting on 18 years.”
Contact Mirror writer Wes Hanna at firstname.lastname@example.org.