Interview #16: Homer, AK Mayor Beth Wythe (with podcast)

This podcast interview is available on iTunesStitcherPlayer FM and right here:

Beth Wythe has been mayor and city council member in Homer for eight years–and yesterday was actually her last day at city hall. I wanted to get her parting thoughts on everything from breaking tie votes to silencing talkative people…to salmon. Yes, salmon.

Q: Fill in the blank for me: if Homer city council meetings were an animal, they would be a ________.

A: [Laughs] I have to think about that because they can be anything.

Q: What is the hardest part about being in charge of a council meeting?

A: I don’t have a difficulty with it. I do have council members that really want their opinion to be the dominating opinion. And then you have other council members that are a little more withdrawn. And you want to draw them out.

Q: So if someone is monopolizing the discussion, how do you gently nudge them to give the other people some space to get in?

A: The rule of order is that you get to have your say and you get to have one response. You can’t just go back and forth. I will just say, “excuse me, this [other] person would like to have something to say.”

Q: When you were just a council member, were you more talkative or less talkative?

A: I just don’t like to argue in public. Even as the mayor I don’t try to make my opinion the stronger one.

Q: The mayor does not have a vote at city council meetings–

A: Only in the case of a tie.

Q: Right, which doesn’t happen often?

Homer, AK Mayor Beth Wythe

A: More frequently than you might think. Where that can be frustrating for the community is that I’m a very conservative person. And so when it comes to me deciding, it’s, like, always going to fall on the conservative side of the table. It’s better for the community if there is good consensus with the council.

Q: So you prefer not casting a vote if it means everyone else is on the same page?

A: Right.

Q: That’s very self-sacrificing of you.

A: I think it’s not about me. When it becomes about “I need to have a vote” and “I need to have my voice heard”–when it becomes about the mayor, I think the mayor’s not doing their job.

Q: Does anyone get prone to hyperbole and threaten to walk out?

A: Right now, we don’t have anyone on the council that does not function in a professional capacity. It’s not like you have housewives–which wouldn’t be a bad thing–but it’s not like you have housewives or people that are not accustomed to conducting a business meeting.

Q: Mmhmm.

A: I’m still thinking about the animal thing. And I haven’t come up with one!

Q: Let’s try to come up with one together.

A: Think of something mellow. It’s not like the yippie dog that needs all the attention. We’re not that.

Q: Cats are fairly mellow. But they’re also sleepy and lazy and they can scratch you.

A: Yeah…

Q: Goldfish are mellow.

A: We are a fishing society. Maybe we’re salmon. There are lots of varieties and they’re highly valued. I’m going with salmon!