Soldotna Mayor Whitney gets started while Sprague wraps up second term

Oct 20, 2020

Paul Whitney was previously Soldotna's vice mayor. He was elected to be the city's new mayor in the municipal elections earlier this month.
Credit Sabine Poux/KDLL

Monday marked a changing of the guard for Soldotna. Pete Sprague finished his tenure as two-time Soldotna mayor and Paul Whitney had his first day on the job — though it was also the observation of Alaska Day, so he had the day off.

Whitney is looking forward to jumping into the role after years of serving on city council. He said a big goal of his is to get the city back to its pre-COVID self.

“Once we kind of get back to a normal lifestyle here, continue on one of the things we’ve been doing, we’re right now working on a remodel project at the sports center, and some time maybe look at another expansion of the sports center, there is a need,” he said.

Whitney’s long-term vision for Soldotna is that it will be a prettier, more liveable city.

“I would like to see more small businesses operating here, more beautification of the community,” he said. “There’s been quite a bit of that here lately with hanging plants at different intersections around town. More of that. Better roads, better bicycle paths, sidewalks.”

Whitney’s inauguration caps Sprague’s 10-month term in the position. He ran in a special election when former Mayor Nels Anderson died last September.

Anderson was elected in 2017 and was supposed to finish his term this year.

Sprague said the decision to run again involved a few factors.

“Number one, it was really just for a short period of time,” he said. “And number two, a number of folks that I really have a lot of respect for had asked me if I would file and run for the seat. And even on council there had been some vacancies and transitions. And I thought it would be good if I could, you know, perhaps, with my experience, really stabilize things for a little while.”

He said he didn’t run again this cycle because he didn’t want to commit to another three-year term. Sprague has been in public service for over two decades. 

“I’ve found it very satisfying and I just think my personality is trying to listen to people and trying to solve problems and to mayorize,” he said. “I was a mailman for 15 years before I got into elected office. It just fits my personality. And being in elected office, especially at the local level, is really satisfying. You really can make a difference in people’s lives almost every day.”

The now-former mayor has no specific plans yet for community involvement going forward. Still, he says, he’s not going anywhere.

“I still, even now I still get calls about the post office. I get calls about assembly issues, too, about borough issues and I’m around and accessible,” Sprague said. “So don’t hesitate to give me a call.”

If you can’t reach him, he’s probably out skiing.