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Queen to leave City of Soldotna in February

Sabine Poux
Stephanie Queen has been at the City of Soldotna since 2008. She's been city manager since 2018.

Soldotna City Manager Stephanie Queen said she will not renew her contract with the city when it expires come February, capping five years as city manager and nearly 15 years working for Soldotna.

Queen, who has lifelong roots on the peninsula, said it’s a decision she’s been mulling for a while.

“And in part, I think it was recognizing that I think there’s a shelf life for city managers,” she said. “It’s a really demanding job. It’s incredibly rewarding, but it takes so much of your time, your psyche. And I wanted to give this organization an opportunity for someone with kind of fresh legs to step in and run with it.”

Working at the city was a bit of a homecoming for Queen. She grew up in Kenai and went Outside for college and graduate school before returning to Alaska with her husband.

“When I moved back to town in February of 2008, the city happened to have a city planner job,” Queen said. “And I thought, I've got some related experience, I’d like to do that. I never could have imagined it would have turned into a career that ended up being such a good fit.”

Queen was appointed to the city manager position in 2018. Her first three-year term was later extended an additional two years.

In those years, Queen has been at the helm amid efforts to redesign the city’s riverfront, ramp up community programming at Soldotna Creek Park and build a new indoor fieldhouse at the Soldotna Regional Sports Complex. That bond package passed with Soldotna voters this year after a long push from supporters. This summer, Queen and the city were on the receiving end of pushback over a Pride Month performance in Soldotna Creek Park, which resulted in some city employees receiving threats.

Much of Queen’s tenure at the city has been defined by COVID, including difficult decisions about mitigation measures and COVID relief funds.

Queen said the pandemic was an exercise in making the best decisions possible with limited and constantly changing information.

“So usually, we can take our time, we can make sure we’ve got all the information, it’s not really going to change between now and when we make the decision,” Queen said. “But that was not the case in COVID. So during COVID, I think my biggest takeaway was anchoring decisions to our principles or our values.”

Queen said before she leaves at the end of February, she wants to put the final touches on financing the field house project. And she wants to rethink employee compensation and benefits to make sure the city is as competitive an employer as it can be.

She said a driving theme in her work has been making her home community a place where others want to live, too. She points to the other young people who grew up in Soldotna and came back as adults to start businesses and join local boards.

“What has been most surprising to me is how awesome it is to be in a small town because every single person who wants to can make such a big impact,” Queen said. “You get to a point where you get to look backwards and remember how things used to be and I think take some pride in how far we’ve come.”

Queen said she doesn’t have anything lined up next. But she said she and her family are definitely going to stay in Soldotna.

The city council will start mapping out next steps for filling Queen’s shoes at its meeting on Dec. 14.

Queen’s announcement follows a few months after Kenai City Manager Paul Ostrander announced he’d be leaving the City of Kenai. The city of Kenai just offered his job to Kenai Finance Director Terry Eubank.

Sabine Poux is the news director at KDLL. Originally from New York, she's lived and reported in Argentina and Vermont, where she fell in love with local news. She covers all things central peninsula but is especially interested in stories related to energy and fishing. She'd love to hear your ideas at
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