Koplin: New mayor should be supporter of fisheries

Outgoing mayor says candidates for that post should be open minded and diplomatic

“We have an airport plan, a harbor plan, website information and lots of volunteers,” said Cordova Mayor Clay Koplin. “We don’t want to harass people, but we want to have the tools in place to keep the community safe.”

When it comes to major accomplishments during his six years as mayor of Cordova, Clay Koplin is quick to say he’s throwing those kudos right back to the community.

There was, for example, the recent leadership award to the city from the Alaska Municipal League, for pandemic management.

“It was a group effort; Cordova continues to do very well,” he said.

“I like people and I like working with people. When you pull together a group of stakeholders and everyone comes out ahead, where everybody gets something,” said Koplin, who also serves as chief executive officer of the Cordova Electric Cooperative and on the federal advisory committee for the Department of Energy.

Mayor Clay Koplin. (Sept. 16, 2020) Photo by Zachary Snowdon Smith/The Cordova Times

The job of mayor, an unpaid position, generally has taken an average of five hours a week the exception being during the height of the pandemic, when it took 30 to 40 hours a week.

Koplin said when he has travels to meetings of the North Pacific Fishery Management Council and the Alaska Board of Fisheries he has paid those expenses on his own because the city budget is tight.

Over the past six years, he’s had a tremendous amount of support from individual citizens for what he has done as mayor, he said.

The toughest part of the job, he said, is sometimes getting everyone “to row in the same direction.”

“I’m not frustrated because they are not rowing in my direction; I’m frustrated because they are not rowing in the direction they want to be rowing in,” he said.

But such frustrations generally roll off his back, because he is focused more on solutions and outcomes, Koplin said.

When he ran for mayor six years ago, it was at the urging of the local business community, he said. “Otherwise, I never would have run,” he said. “It’s important to run for the right reasons. To promote a pet project, for personal reasons, that is the wrong reason,” he said. “The best reason is to help the community achieve its goals. You are there to represent the whole community, not one part or the other. The mayor works for the city council. Whatever the council votes for the mayor should support.”

Still, if the mayor sees the Council stepping off of a cliff, the mayor should have that conversation with the Council, he said.

Top qualities for whomever runs for mayor March 1 should be “someone who is openminded, who listens, who is even tempered, who is nonpartisan, and who puts the community’s interests ahead of their own, and someone who supports fisheries,” he said. “Fisheries is our economy. That’s what provides for all of our services and funds for our schools.”

Gov. Mike Dunleavy, right, meets with Mayor Clay Koplin, left, and other community leaders at a public roundtable. (Oct. 25, 2021) Photo by Zachary Snowdon Smith/The Cordova Times

Candidates for mayor should also be diplomatic, to work with state and federal officials whom they will not always agree with, because they have to work with them, he said.

With his term of office coming to an end shortly, Koplin said he could run again at some point, but is not sure he would.

“Meanwhile, it has been a real honor and a pleasure,” he said. “It has very rewarding.”

When the polls open in Cordova on March 1, residents will also be casting their ballots for three-year terms for Cordova City Council seats A, F and G, plus two three year terms on the school board and two three year seats on the Cordova Community Medical Center. The deadline to declare candidacy is Jan. 31.

Voter registration applications are available at city hall or via online registration at elections.alaska.gov.