Wasilla Mayor 1996 – 2002

Mayoral Campaign Born

In this doodle on the back of a budget document, then Councilwoman Palin outlined her nascent mayoral campaign (H/T Kenton L). Click photo for full-size image. Notice the “time for change” written in the upper left-hand corner. As Gov. Palin pointed out in Going Rogue, “we were change, before change was cool.”

Executive Summary

During her two three-year terms as Mayor of Wasilla, Sarah Palin developed her executive and administrative experience, and put her Transformational Leadership skills to the test. Sarah Palin won her Mayoral election with 75% of the vote in a three-way race (Palin, 2009, p. 80). The Mayor’s position of Wasilla is a CEO type job over a multimillion dollar entity (Palin, 2009, p. 69).

1996 AP/Mat-Su Frontiersman photo of Mayor Palin

Reagan Conservatism/Tax Reduction:

  • Cut taxes
  • Eliminated small-business inventory taxes
  • Eliminated property taxes
  • Eliminated business license renewal fees
  • Cut the real estate property tax mil levy during each year in office
  • Did not support proposed city-wide smoking ban

(Palin, 2009, p. 78)

Infrastructure Development:

  • Built and paved roads
  • Extended water and sewer lines
  • Paved runway at Wasilla Municipal Airport
  • City bond financed by half-cent sales tax to build Curtis Menard Jr. Multi-Use Sports Center

(Palin, 2009, p. 78)

Wasilla became a major commercial center under Mayor Palin. Established small businesses grew, and major national chains opened their doors in Wasilla.

Transformational Leadership:

“This gets at my approach to management. I have a bulletin board filled with coffee-stained dog-eared quotes tacked up along with family photos that has followed me from office to office since 1992. One of my favorite quotes comes from author and former football coach Lou Holtz, on how to build your team: “Motivation is simple. You eliminate those who are not motivated.” (Palin, 2009, p. 79).

  • Fired police chief who refused cut department budget and who attempted to undermine Palin’s Mayoralty.
  • Requested letters of resignation from all department heads to keep on file. Only two complied.

President, Alaska Conference of Mayors

  • Led dozens of other mayors in dealing with statewide issues, such as municipal revenue sharing, and advocating for local control government.

(Palin, 2009, p. 80)


“We have to work twice as hard to prove we’re half as capable as men think they are….thankfully, it’s not that difficult” (Palin, 2009, p. 80)

Photo Courtesy Kathryn DiFrancesco

From an interview with Amanda Gragert for Capital City Weekly’s (CCW) Spring 2007 publication of Women in Business:

“Our receptionist was at lunch and I sat there answering the phones in the mayor’s office and a guy walks by and says, ‘You’re way too young to be the mayor’s secretary.’ He didn’t know who the mayor was and he thought I was too young to be the secretary. I thought, ‘That’s so cute,’ and I didn’t even correct him and say, ‘I am the mayor.'”

H/T Joe Silva for CCW quote.

Powers and Duties of the Mayor of Wasilla

The 10 Powers and Duties of the Mayor of Wasilla are delineated the Wasilla Municipal Code, Chapter 2.16, Section .020:

A. The mayor is the chief administrator of the city, has the same powers and duties as those of a manager under AS 29.20.005, and shall:

  1. Preside at council meetings. The mayor may take part in the discussion of matters before the council,
    but may not vote, except that the mayor may vote in the case of a tie;
  2. Act as ceremonial head of the city;
  3. Sign documents on behalf of the city;
  4. Appoint, suspend or remove city employees and administrative officials, except as provided otherwise in AS Title 29 and the Wasilla Municipal Code;
  5. Supervise the enforcement of city law and carry out the directives of the city council;
  6. Prepare and submit an annual budget and capital improvement program for consideration by the council, and execute the budget and capital program as adopted;
  7. Make monthly financial reports and other reports on city finances and operations as required by the council;
  8. Exercise legal custody over all real and personal property of the city;
  9. Perform other duties required by law or by the council; and
  10. Serve as personnel officer, unless the council authorizes the mayor to appoint a personnel officer.

Sarah Palin, then Mayor of Wasilla, AK participated in the 5th Annual Alaska Ladies Charity Classic sporting clays shoot Saturday June 3, 2000, as documented in this famous file photo of her reloading an over-under double-barrel shotgun. The photo was taken by Erik Hill of the Anchorage Daily News (Potosky, 2008).

“The Alaska Ladies Charity Shotgun Classic, is a non-competitive, ladies only 50 target sporting clays event for both novice and experienced shooters” (Grouse Ridge, 2009, p. 2). The Shotgun Classic is “[a] fun event to give women and their families an introduction to enjoy the shooting sports and the outdoors and to raise money for breast cancer awareness.” At the shoot, she wore a jacket with Wasilla’s City Seal emblazoned on it, suggesting that she attended as Mayor, not a private citizen.


2009 Alaska Ladies Charity Shotgun Classic & Couples Fun Shoot. (2009). Grouse Ridge Shooting Grounds. Retrieved September 22, 2009 from: http://grouseridge.com/2009_Ladies_Shoot_flyer.pdf

Spielberger, K. (2007). “So long, Sarah”. Capital City Weekly. Retrieved from: http://www.capitalcityweekly.com/stories/072209/new_467649277.shtml

Palin, S. L. H. (2009). Going Rogue: An American Life. (New York: Harper). pp. 69-81.

Document Central. (n.d.). City of Wasilla. Retrieved July 4, 2010 from: http://www.cityofwasilla.com/index.aspx?page=136

Potosky, J. (2008, August 29). “Sarah Palin NRA Life Member, Fisherman and Hunter.” The Lost Target. Retrieved September 22, 2009 from: http://losttarget.blogspot.com/2008/08/sarah-palin-nra-lifemember-fisherman.html

What are the Duties of the Mayor of Wasilla? (n.d.). Document Central. City of Wasilla. Retrieved July 4, 2010 from: http://www.cityofwasilla.com/Modules/ShowDocument.aspx?documentid=485