By Conrad Dudderar
Senior Staff Writer
Committed to protecting City employee jobs and local businesses in the wake of a health and economic crisis, a newly elected member is preparing to take his seat on the Yukon City Council.
Council members will convene their regular meeting at 7 p.m. May 5 inside the council chambers of the Centennial Building, 12 S 5th.
Taking a seat on the council after taking his oath of office will be Aric Gilliland, who was elected in February as Yukon’s new Ward 4 council member succeeding Mike McEachern.
Gilliland, 41, teaches at Epic Charter School, is a coach and small business owner.
“I wouldn’t have run for this seat if it wasn’t for my love for the people of Yukon,” Gilliland said Wednesday. “This place and our people have my heart. Yukon has given me so much, there’s no way I can’t give back.
“This position is not about me; it is about them. I will always come to the council seat with the eyes and ears of my neighbors.”
A Yukon High School graduate (and “proud Miller”), Gilliland won the next four-year term as Ward 4 council member after defeating small business owner Ken Wilkins by a 72 percent margin at the Feb. 11th election.
In preparation, Gilliland has been examining documents dealing with City business and making sure he’s updated on current projects and budgeting issues. He’s also attended both regular council and emergency council meetings.
As he begins his service, Gilliland said city council members must look closely at how they’re spending their energy and resources to ensure they’re maximizing output.
“Fiscally speaking, prior to the current (COVID-19) crisis, we have been doing very well in recent years,” Gilliland said.
The Ward 4 councilman-elect referred to this year’s “clean” City of Yukon audit.
“It was basically as good as it gets for a municipality but did show some room for improvement,” he said. “So, we clearly see that our previous council and our city manager have worked hard to recover, and we’ve done well.
“Along with the people of Yukon, they overcame the horrible financial situation we found ourselves in just a few years ago and have laid a strong fiscal foundation. Now we have entered an unprecedented and extremely difficult time in the face of this COVID-19 crisis. It is that strong foundation that will help us get through these times.”
Gilliland quoted his grandmother who raised him and his brother while working as a nursing home administrator:
“There is a solution to every problem. You just have to work hard to find the best one. …. You just have to make a decision and live with it.”
There is no easy solution to the current crisis, he acknowledged.
“Every decision has consequences and it is our job as a council to consider every possible consequence and decide if we can live with that decision.”
PROTECTING JOBS, BUSINESSES
As the newest city council member, Gilliland plans to look for ways to cut any possible waste or unnecessary spending while maximizing current resources. He realizes there “absolutely” will be budget cuts because of the projected loss of sales tax revenue.
“I will also commit to doing everything I can to accomplish these things without sacrificing jobs of our City employees who work so hard to make our city great,” he said.
As for the impact the current crisis has on Yukon, Gilliland said City leaders must protect the people – not only their physical health but also their mental and fiscal health.
He plans to challenge the city council and city manager to consider ways to mitigate the hardship and lessen the burden on many small businesses who have been “hit hard” – to keep them from shutting their doors for good.
The Ward 4 council member-elect plans to challenge fellow council members and the city manager to “think outside the box.” He believes success doesn’t always come by following existing models.
“We are a unique city with unique and growing needs,” Gilliland said. “We must pay close attention to those needs and anticipate how they are changing and answer the challenge to meet those needs, even before they arise.”
He plans to be heavily involved from the moment he’s sworn into office as he joins fellow council members to care for and lead the people.
“I am not too proud to acknowledge there will be a learning curve, but that will not hold me back in terms of ideas and advocating for what I believe is best for our citizens.”
WHAT ‘GRANDO’ USED TO SAY
Gilliland’s grandfather, Leon Gilliland, retired from the City’s water department in 1991.
“Growing up, I rarely left the house without hearing Grando say, ‘Take your time. Work hard. And do a good job!’” Aric Gilliland related.
“Those words ring in my ears every day. And though I humbly admit I’ve failed to live up to that at times, the people of Yukon and Ward 4 can know that those words will be on my mind and in my heart every time I take the seat in the council chamber.”
Yukon has faced adversity before, and Gilliland is confident the city will overcome – but it will require much attention and diligence.
“These troubled waters will recede,” Gilliland said. “We will recover! We will rebuild. We will emerge bigger and stronger than ever before.
“Crisis will no doubt come again in our lifetime. No one knows when or how, but there’s comfort in knowing we will be prepared and there is One who walks with us!”
In his life – at home and work – Gilliland takes comfort in Jeremiah 29:11:
“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”