Emma Sulczynski is a junior at Homer High School. She is involved in student council, National Honor Society, Alaska Youth for Environmental Action (AYEA), and Drama, Debate, and Forensics (DDF). She is passionate about education, the environment, and her community.
Homer is a wonderful town with a thriving community. It is home to great schools, beautiful scenery, and passionate people. But the future of Homer is in jeopardy. The education, economy, and environment are at the mercy of the state government. To secure Homer’s future, we need representation that will work to solve these issues.
Representative Vance is a freshman member of the Alaska Legislature. I first met Vance at a 2019 town hall at the college to discuss Governor Dunleavy’s proposed budget cuts. It was overflowing with attendees. She spent much of the time meant for testimonies talking without giving pertinent information. Vance avoided crucial questions, brushed over passionate testimonies, and met concerns with meaningless platitudes. These practices have continued to characterize her interactions with the public.
Though Vance assured us she had voters’ best interests in mind, Must Read Alaska estimated that 80% of attendees opposed the education cuts, and this didn’t sway her support for the governor’s budget. Instead of doing her job by serving the public, she chose to serve Dunleavy.
Later in the year, Homer High School’s student council organized a letter-writing opportunity for students to share their views on the budget cuts with Rep. Vance. Upon receiving these letters, her first move was to take to Facebook.
Rep. Vance attacked us for not addressing her properly or not signing a name at the bottom. She was patronizing, dismissive, and largely uninformed of how the school system works. She said “A quality education in academia is what is going to ensure that they have [a successful future].” While the intent was to discredit sports/extracurriculars, she was really emphasizing the importance of education – ironic, considering her support for the education cuts.
After much backlash, she apologized and took down the video, but the harm was done. Vance alienated young constituents rather than listening to them.
Her disrespect didn’t stop there. I helped plan the Homer climate strike in coordination with the global youth-led movement. This was a time for coming together to listen to young peoples’ voices and support climate justice. A lot of effort was put in, locally and globally. We invited Rep. Vance, but she didn’t show up. She was too busy hosting a competing climate meeting scheduled for the same time at the high school.
Vance could’ve attended our event and even spoken, if that was her intention. Her “alternative” meeting was a hypocritical power play that directly undermined our student-led movement and was planned reactively.
Maybe the sting of this rebuke would’ve been lessened, had her meeting been a legitimate attempt to connect with students and discuss climate solutions. But attendees said that she took no real stance, didn’t address more complicated questions, and responded at length to inane queries. Meanwhile, our climate strike included youth speakers, opportunities to take action, and provided a real-world learning experience.
Overall, these examples don’t show strong leadership. But there is hope for the future. To replace Rep. Vance, we need a local, proven leader who is respectful, communicates well, and considers issues thoughtfully.
Kelly Cooper, campaigning to be our next representative, has a proven track record of leadership as President of the KPB Assembly, Homer Chamber of Commerce Board, and the South Peninsula Hospital Operating Board. She believes in problem-solving, connecting with future voters, and voting on subjects based on the issue, not on partisan politics. Cooper will be the one to empower Homer and ensure that the community flourishes. When voting on November 3rd, I’d urge citizens to keep in mind the qualities of a strong leader and vote for Kelly Cooper.