PALMER — Not having been elected prior to winning a seat on the Mat-Su Borough Assembly, Deputy Mayor Matthew Beck felt called to serve. Beck will finish his second term on the assembly on Nov. 25 after a heartfelt congratulations from his colleagues on the assembly and Mayor Vern Halter.
“The whole Mat-Su Borough is going to miss your leadership. You’re a true gentleman,” Halter said.
Beck had no prior experience in municipal government, but felt compelled to have a positive impact on schools and his neighbors with farms.
“‘It’s been an honor and a privilege to serve,” Beck said.
Beck has worked for the Archdiocese of Anchorage for the last 25 years as a lay minister and got his degree in secondary education. Naturally, focusing on education would become one of his strong suits. However, Beck’s continuing education as a member of the assembly are what made his experience enjoyable.
“I honestly didn’t think I would win and it was a surprise I won. My wife and I sat there and looked at each other that night and went oh my goodness, now what are we going to do? I mean I was happy to serve, happy to learn, the learning curve is huge, how to understand a multi million dollar budget like that,” Beck said.
Beck continued his education as a member of the assembly from riding in maintenance trucks to seal cracks in the concrete to traveling to Washington, D.C. to discuss issues with the Alaskan representation on Capitol Hill, something Beck never believed he would do in his life.
“I’m a little bit nostalgic tonight about, kind of six years. I came in not knowing what to expect and you know I love the patriotism. My great grandfather fought in World War I and he left the country to go fight while my great grandmother stayed and ran the family hardware store in Evanston, Illinois. Then my grandfather was a World War II naval aviator, my brother served in Desert Storm and I felt like I had a civic responsibility. I wanted to do something to serve,” said Beck.
Beck’s proudest accomplishments as a member of the assembly are that he saved taxpayers money while increasing services that keep residents safe when voting to build new fire stations.
“Every time I drive by a fire station that was built under my two terms, I’m proud of that. I look at that and say I was a small part of that bigger work,” Beck said.
Beck tried to meet and learn about as many different employees within the borough building as he possibly could, furthering his education on the issues. Beck studied fish and wildlife management, fire and crisis management, Robert’s Rules of Order, landfills and waste management and marijuana and e-cigarettes. Beck admits that he wishes he did not know nearly as much about e-cigarettes as he does, but that through the six-year process he did learn that he loved the process of debate. On his way out of office, Beck still sees a need for change.
“I think there’s a real need for systemic change of how we operate as a borough. We have a strong manager form of government right now where the manager works for the assembly. That person has to tiptoe a fine line between pleasing seven different bosses,” Beck said. “This manager has outlived most tenures of borough managers and he’s done a good job but he’s walked a fine line and it makes it hard.”
Beck received his most cherished advice from his brother the night he won the election six years ago. Beck was told that people who had been his friends may learn to distrust him just because he had been elected to office. Beck admitted that his least favorite part of holding office is the label put on him by others. Despite making tough decisions as a member of the assembly, Beck believes that even tougher decisions lie ahead.
“We’re going to have to change how we operate because things have changed nationally, they’re changing down in Juneau and I think that those changes are yet to come even more significantly which is going to force us, really force us to look at how we do business,” Beck said.
Over a lifetime of education that led him to a place he never thought he would be, Beck was honored to have been given the opportunity to serve the Mat-Su Valley as it’s Deputy Mayor.
“Collaborating with the people that are on staff has just been incredibly enjoyable. For the most part, I’ve really liked to see the dedication and the expertise that they bring to their jobs,” Beck said.