WASILLA — Former Wasilla Mayor Bert Cottle recently participated in a question and answer interview to discuss his past administration’s greatest milestones, the lessons from his political career, and his current ambitions running for Mayor of the Matanuska Susitna Borough.
Q: What’s it like at this juncture after serving as the mayor of Wasilla?
“I’m termed out of where I was. So to me, this is just another logical step and I’d like three to six years as the Borough Mayor.”
What are some of your main goals if you’re elected Borough Mayor?
“One of the things I’ve always wanted to do and it’s nothing against the prior mayors… I think the Borough’s missing an outreach program. Because we cover 25,000 square miles, so once a month I’d like to go up to Lake Louise, which is in our jurisdiction, Willow, maybe Houston once a month, and spend half a day up there… Then kind of get out to the people… If you live in Lake Louise, why do you gotta drive two hours to a Borough meeting when the Borough Mayor will be up there once a month?”
Looking back, what are some of the biggest accomplishments from your time serving the City of Wasilla?
“Probably when we moved the Veterans Wall. The City of Wasilla took the leadership on that. We raised $900,000 from different organizations that made the wall what it is now. People might not like the location and there’s nothing I can do about that, but the City of Wasilla gave a 198-year lease on that land for a dollar a year, and pays for electricity, and maintenance… I was working for Rupright when I got the land donated by the Borough to get a new library, and I was the mayor that bought the land from the school district to build a new police department, and that was all approved by the voters… You’ve got to have public support. The public has to trust you in government, that you’re gonna do what you say you are, and the first time you don’t do that, you’ll never get it again.”
What are some other milestones that stand out to you?
“We brought back SART, the Sexual Assault Response Team. That’s been back since I’ve been with the city. So, we don’t have to take our rape victims or sexual assault victims to Anchorage now for medical exams. We can do them out here… We sold The Clock Tower… We also moved the train depot, and we extended the SRO program, so more police officers inside the schools… We did a lot. It wasn’t all me.”
What drew you to politics in the first place?
“If you’re a police chief based in Valdez, there’s politics involved. So that kind of got me into politics. After the police department, I got onto the city council, and then I became mayor for 10 years… I’ve been on one side of the fence. Then I thought, ‘you know what, I think I could do a good job on the other side, so I could make another difference…’ I went to work for Vern out here in 2011.”
So, you’ve been at it for a while now, what are some of the lessons you’re taking with you?
“I think the biggest thing and the hardest thing for any politician, and I don’t care if it’s me or anybody else, is to be able to know what people want to say. Everybody has a message. Everybody wants to express their view… We’re a small enough state that they expect you to be accessible to the public… People want that, and that’s why I think it’s important to do this outreach. People want to be able to say, ‘yeah I know who the mayor is. I may agree or I may not agree, but I know who the mayor is.’ You are the face and the voice of that jurisdiction… Like it or not, that’s how it works… I also believe that if you’re gonna be involved, be involved. I’m not there just to take notes.”
What’s motivating you to keep going?
“Other than Vern Halter, I’ve been to more Borough assembly meetings than anybody… I’m not ready to retire. I still think I’ve still got some years left where I can be effective… At my age, if I get three to six years being Borough Mayor, I’d be tickled to death… It gives me at least three years or six more years to give back to my community.”
The MSB 2021 regular election is scheduled for Nov. 2, 2021. For more information, visit matsugov.us/elections.
Contact Mat-Su Valley Frontiersman reporter Jacob Mann at firstname.lastname@example.org