For Cathy Munoz, a decision to step down from the Juneau Assembly this fall doesn't mean a break from city politics.
She is turning her efforts to the Alaska Committee, which works to keep the capital and the Legislative session in Juneau. She also wants to work on other regional issues such as the Alaska Marine Highway System.
While she's not ruling out a future bid for office, Munoz said it will be nice to have a little more time on her hands.
"It's always good to have new people on the Assembly," she said. "I think it will be good for me to step back and get involved in other things that are important."
Munoz, who co-owns the Ad Lib retail shop downtown, was appointed to the Juneau Assembly in February 1995 to finish the term of a member who resigned. She was elected to the first of two terms that later that year. One of her original campaign issues was sidewalks and other improvements at the McNugget intersection, she said.
"The sidewalks are being built now," she said. "It takes some time to get things happening, but if you have a project you think is important, stay focused on it and try to move it through the channels it needs to move through."
The city's involvement in the closure of Capital School was the most difficult issue she dealt with on the Assembly, Munoz said. After the Juneau School Board decided to close the building as a school, Munoz became part of a group that wanted to open Juneau's first charter school there. She had attended kindergarten through sixth grade at Capital School, now the Terry Miller Legislative Office Building.
"We lost it on a 5-4 vote," Munoz said. "It was grueling. But I learned a lot through that experience. You know who to trust and who not to trust. We thought we had the support and on the last night it fell through. What I learned in terms of that issue is that your word is so important."
As chairwoman of the Finance Committee for the past year, Munoz has dealt with city budget issues. She offers this advice: Be prepared.
Mayor Sally Smith praised Munoz's contributions to the Finance Committee.
"She had a good grasp of the issues and a wonderful manner in running the Finance Committee," Smith said.
City Manager Dave Palmer said both Munoz and John MacKinnon have contributed untold hours of personal time to city issues.
"I think what we will miss as an organization and what I'll miss personally is their history and memory of events. Issues that the Assembly faces, in many events, repeat themselves," he said. "They both have that perspective because they've been through it before."
Mu-oz also served as the Assembly's representative to the Parks and Recreation Advisory Committee and headed the Trails Working Group, which put together a blueprint for commercial trail use in Juneau.
"When you get people together and you're respectful of their ideas, it's possible to move forward in a way that benefits all user groups," she said. "It came out as a result of a situation where we as an Assembly were responding to groups of people outraged about particular commercial use of recreational areas in their neighborhood. It became clear we had to get ahead of this and do some advance planning."
A similar approach might be helpful on helicopter noise issues, specifically a plan for alternative heliports in Juneau, Munoz said.
"If I was mayor for the day with the helicopter issue, I would appoint a group of people to sit together and work together that were willing to come to the table and put away their animosity, so to speak -- to determine if those recommendations are worth pursuing," she said. "There may be new ideas that haven't been explored."
As for the future, Munoz lists funding for a new high school, the budget and post-Sept. 11 security issues as upcoming challenges for the Assembly.
"We need to be proactive and come up with a plan that allows additional security when necessary and also allows the public its enjoyment of those public treasures," she said.
Joanna Markell can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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