Two candidates will be on the ballot in Soldotna for a special election next month. The sudden passing of Dr. Nels Anderson in September left the office of mayor vacant for a partial term.
Pete Sprague, who has served almost two decades in public office between the Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly and the city of Soldotna, will face Charlene Tautfest.
Sprague says he’s looking forward to the possibility of getting back into the public square.
“I’ve been out of the mayor’s office for a couple years...and I talked to a number of my friends and did some soul searching and thought that I would submit my name to be on the ballot in the special election… I really have missed being involved and I thought the time was right to attempt to get back into it.”
Sprague is a longtime Soldotna resident and is retired from the US Postal Service. In addition to a turn as Soldotna mayor from 2015-2017, he was also on the council in the late 90’s and again from 2011 to 2015. In between, he served on the assembly until 2010, including a term as assembly president.
The council also has a vacant seat, with the election of Tyson Cox to borough assembly. Pamela Parker, who lost her race to Dave Carey in this year’s regular election, is slated to be appointed to seat B for a partial term. That appointment will make the council relatively young, with three members under the age of 40. Sprague says he hopes he can pass on some of his experience to the younger members.
“I have talked to Ms. Parker and Mr. Chilson and a little bit with Mr. Ruffridge. I think the council has a really good balance of folks with a lot of experience like Mr. Carey and Mr. Whitney and Ms. Lisa Parker as well, so I think there’s a really good balance there and I think I would fit in really well.”
The former mayor and city council member will face a political newcomer in Charlene Tautfest. She says she got in the race to give people a choice.
“It’s usually the same people that are running and I thought I would come in with new ideas, basically, give people a choice. To me, Soldotna is sitting pretty well, financially; got a real strong city council.”
Tautfest has lived in Alaska for 25 years. And although this is her first run at elected office, she’s spent time volunteering on a number of government boards over the years, including the Alaska Mental Health Board.
“I have an adult son that was diagnosed with schizophrenia about 12 years ago and he’s doing very well right now...So, if anything I can bring an awareness for mental health. Recovery is possible. Lend support to any families that need it in a situation that I was in about 15 years ago, not knowing what was wrong with my kid and leading down that path of trying to find help and medication management and all the things that go in with that.”
Tautfest is also an advocate for the Alaska Coalition on Housing and Homelessness and is one of 25 members of the Governor’s Council on Disabilities and Special Education. She’s also a member of Rotary, Republican Women of the Kenai and is interim board president of Peninsula Community Health services.
The special election for mayor in Soldotna is December 17th.