Jim Matherly reflects on 12 years in Fairbanks government

Jim Matherly reflects on his twelve years in public service.
Published: Oct. 25, 2022 at 4:47 PM AKDT
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FAIRBANKS, Alaska (KTVF) - On Monday, October 24, Jim Matherly oversaw his last city council meeting as Fairbanks Mayor before turning over the gavel to incoming mayor David Pruhs.

This ended a 12-year streak in city government: two terms in city council and two terms as mayor.

“I’ve been thinking about public service my whole life,” Matherly said.

Matherly was elected to Fairbanks City Council in 2010. “It’s the serving folks and doing it respectfully and doing it... being approachable, talking to folks, returning every single phone call.”

The mayor’s job, however, comes with a learning curve according to Matherly, “It was incredibly challenging and a great learning experience. I learned more about my city than I ever knew, and I was born in Fairbanks.”

Since first coming into public office, Matherly said the proliferation of social media technology has increased the public’s voice. “More people have access to phones in case they see an emergency. It does add a lot of 911 calls, I’ll say, and I also think because of some of the atmosphere of politics, it’s actually increased the public’s involvement as well in the city.”

Matherly says he learned how to better listen to feedback from the community, even when that feedback was contentious. “People will give you what you need if you just let them talk, let them vent, let them give an opinion.”

He sees the mayor as being an ambassador for Fairbanks. “My job is to be a servant, to be approachable, to be a support system for the staff, and be a good representative for the city.”

Matherly says he is proud of expanding mental health services in Fairbanks, and securing funding to finally tear down the Polaris Building.

His time as mayor has carried with it some difficulties, however. “There were some lawsuit challenges that made the newspaper. People read about those, people coming and going from the city, maybe department heads leaving, and there’s squabbles.”

“Of course, COVID left us with a whole bunch of new challenges, in finding people and employment,” he added.

Matherly has no regrets, however, and said the job has left him with some of his best memories. “It’s been the dream of my life to serve the city in this capacity ever since I was in high school. So I leave sad, elated, every emotion you could feel is how I feel today.”