Soldotna’s Peggy Mullen will be inducted into the Alaska Women’s Hall of Fame at a virtual ceremony Oct. 20. Along with 11 other Alaskan women, Mullen will be honored for her commitment to community service.
In Soldotna, that community service has taken many forms. Her daughter Mara Carnahan said it’s deeply woven into who she is.
“From when I was a kid, we picked up garbage on the side of the highway, we always had community meetings in the house, I would go to meetings with her as a kid,” she said. “It just was always what she did. And I think that stems from a core belief that you do your best to make the place that you are as wonderful as it can be. She’s just done that her whole life.”
Mullen was raised in Soldotna, where she still lives today. Her mother, Marge Mullen, was Soldotna’s first woman homesteader. Marge was inducted into the Alaska Women’s Hall of Fame in 2010.
Peggy Mullen helped start Soldotna’s Planned Parenthood and the peninsula’s chapter of the League of Women Voters and has worked extensively on local conservation efforts. She founded an organization called Bridges Community Resource Network that, as Sammy Crawford put it, serves as an umbrella organization for local nonprofits.
“She’s always been very, very concerned about the physical environment,” Crawford said. “And she has worked to get rid of noxious weeds and invasive weeds and to try to get our community to be a better place for all of us. She worked very hard to get bike trails in, to make sure there were sidewalks, and has been on every public transportation task force that I think ever came along.”
Mullen started three businesses in Soldotna, River City Books, the Four Seasons restaurant, where Buckets is now, and Northcountry Fair, a high-end cooking and housewares store. Carnahan said those ventures were extensions of her care for Soldotna.
“Whenever she had an entrepreneurial idea, it was often, ‘What would bring joy to Soldotna? What would Soldotna need?’” she said. “So when she had the idea for the bookstore, for example, it was a place for people to come together and share ideas, and explore ideas through books. A big enough place for people to gather, have conversations, community dialogue.”
The building that houses the bookstore, which Mullen still runs, is designed to be green. Mullen has been passionate about environmentalism for a while.
“She supports other people’s ventures,” said Susan Smalley. “She’s generous — incredibly, incredibly generous with her time, with her business base, with her businesses. And things like recycling here — there were a lot of other people involved, but Peggy was the starter and the one that just kind of kept it moving for a while.”
Marion Nelson said Mullen was confident about the power of a few to enact change for an entire community.
“She knew very well that it just takes a small group of dedicated people to make a lot of things happen,” she said. “That is so true.”
Mullen encouraged others to get involved in the public process and served herself on the Soldotna City Council for three terms.
“One of the things was that she was concerned about the looks of the city of Soldotna and got on the city council so she could make some changes,” Crawford said. “And then years after that, she was able to serve several terms and learned a lot about how government works and how to be an influencer. And she was able to make Soldotna into a wonderful little progressive city.”
Nelson said Mullen has stayed true to her beliefs in all her endeavors.
“She’s very kind. She’s very opinionated — so am I — about things that she believes in,” she said. “She will work hard if there’s something going on. ‘Who is it that makes your cookies there, or your sandwiches?’ It’s Peggy.”
Mullen said she was nominated by her friend Nan Elliot, of Anchorage. She is yet to meet the other inductees but says they had a check-in over Zoom recently to make sure everyone’s computers will work come Oct. 20.
“I am very impressed, always, with the women who are nominated, and this year is no exception,” Mullen said. “Women know how to make good things happen in our communities and there is always a group in every village and every town who is forward-thinking and able to network with others and make good things happen.”
Mullen and the other inductees will have a few minutes to speak at the ceremony. The Hall of Fame will post updates about how to attend that ceremony on its website, alaskawomenshalloffame.org.