To hear new Stockton Mayor Thomas Karjola tell it, there’s nowhere else he’d rather be.
An avid hunter and outdoorsman, Karjola said he goes up into the mountains around Stockton frequently.
“It’s the kind of place I would go to on vacation if I didn’t live here,” he said.
Originally from Washington, Karjola served in the Navy for six years before meeting his wife, Megan Shutts-Karjola, who was in the Air Force. Once she joined the reserves and joined the staff at Mountain West Medical Center, the Karjolas moved to Stockton.
“The hospital here offered her a good place, so we moved on out here,” Karjola said.
For the Karjolas, who both have rural roots, Stockton was a good fit.
“I never dreamed I would be able to live somewhere this rural with her job because she has to be so close to the hospital,” Karjola said. “So it’s kind of dream circumstances here for us.”
Following his move to Stockton, Karjola frequently attended meetings for the county and town to oppose businesses looking to mine gravel from the Stockton Bar or install windmills on it. Eventually he was encouraged to run for office and successfully sought a town council seat during the 2015 election.
Karjola was then appointed to serve as mayor by the Stockton Town Council on Feb. 1 during a special meeting following the resignation of former Mayor Mark Whitney. He will serve as interim mayor until the municipal election in 2019.
A sense of duty and grasp of the issues facing the town were among the reasons Karjola cited for applying for the mayor’s position. He was selected by a 3 to 1 vote of the council, including a vote for himself.
“I kind of feel that people were calling me to duty, so I answered the call,” Karjola said. “I’m ready to hit the ground running.”
Some of the challenges facing the town include population growth in, and around, the borders of the town and the need to replace an outdated sand filtration water system. Karjola said the town would prefer to remain small but annexing growth could provide the funds to revamp the water system.
“Let’s face it, a town border is a legal line on a map,” he said. “Whether they’re on this side of the border or that side of the border, those houses are still going to be Stockton and they’re still going to be part of our community. So we have to take a serious look at expanding our borders so that when those houses are there, we can serve them and they can help alleviate some of the issues we have.”
Karjola also hopes to repair the infield of the town’s baseball field to encourage visitors to the town and raise sales tax revenue.
While he acclimatizes to his new role as mayor, Karjola said he intends to work full-time out of the town offices. He is currently a stay-at-home dad and said he has the time to devote to learning the job, before scaling back his in-office hours.
Karjola will be sworn in at a ceremony this evening at the Town Hall during the scheduled town council meeting, which begins at 7 p.m.