Laura Arboleda. Photo by Emily Diocares
The Kodiak City Council just welcomed its newest and youngest council member.
23-year-old Laura Arboleda takes over from Terry Haines, who vacated his seat due to his responsibilities as a fisherman. Arboleda ran uncontested for a two-year tenure at the recent city municipal elections.
At last week’s city council regular meeting, Randy Bishop, who is 28 but ran for city council when he was also 23, congratulated Arboleda on her new position.
“She is our youngest councilmember, and she makes me feel old now. But with that said, I hope to see that more young adults take this as an inspiration to see that anything is possible and, if you really do care for your community, put your foot forward. Although you may not know, you will always learn, and you have to start somewhere.”
That seems to resonate with Arboleda, who notes her investment in the Kodiak community as the primary reason she ran in the first place.
“Seeing little kids and my little cousins grow up here – and I have a nephew now who’s going be growing up here – and I just look at them and think, I want something for them here in Kodiak when they get older. And I want them to love this place as I do now. So, just the passion I have for this place, this community, really is my driving motivation.”
She says she and her family moved to Kodiak from California when she was little, and she imagines herself raising a family of her own and retiring in Kodiak.
Arboleda is now an assistant at Residential Mortgage, but worked for three years at the Chamber of Commerce.
“Actually that kind of, I would say, ignited wanting to serve and give back to the community. That’s kind of when I started thinking about it. Not about running for city council or the politics part of it. But just what can I do to give back and to give more of my time to our community? And so, it wasn’t until a few months ago when it actually just lit up in my heart.”
She says the idea of running first occurred to her when she read about the open seat in the Kodiak Daily Mirror. She says to become more informed, she attended a few city council meetings.
“And they get pretty intense, they’re very informative, and they’re actually pretty exciting for me because you learn a lot about what’s going on in the community that others don’t know about other than when they hear it or see it on Facebook. So, I think it’s such a great opportunity when people attend those city council or borough assembly meetings because there’s so much to know and learn about.”
Arboleda explains that’s the same reason young people should want to stay updated on local government.
Those who have stopped by city council meetings may have observed that most people who attend are older adults. But Arboleda thinks a younger demographic should have just as much interest.
“Some people think well, that doesn’t apply to me, but when you think about it, it kinda does, ‘cause all we talk about is community stuff – is things that go on in our community – and if you’re part of our community, I believe that it does apply to you in some way or somehow, maybe not to you, but a friend, a family member. We’re all connected, because we live on such a small island, somehow, someway, we’re connected.”
It can be difficult to determine why more young adults don’t attend meetings. Arboleda suggests social media as a solution.
“Any kind of ad on Facebook or just an invite, you know, for 20-year-olds, and 30-year-olds, or even high-schoolers. An invite. You don’t have to want to be wanting to run for city council or president to have to come to these meetings. You love Kodiak, you live here, come to the meetings. That’s all it really is.”
Having more young adults on the city council could be a good start. According to Arboleda, people she met around town were vocal about her choice to run in the recent election.
“It was awesome just to see people stop me at the store and be like ‘I am so happy that you’re running. To see such a young, new fresh face.’ And honestly, I was scared at first. I was like, I’m only 23. People might not take me seriously. My passion for this town might not be enough. But just being out in public and hearing people congratulate me and say thank you so much for doing this, that just inspired me even more.”
Arboleda says she’ll probably sit back and listen and learn for the next few months before jumping into the mix.
As Councilman Bishop said, you have to start somewhere.