Borough finance director takes on two more jobs to give back to community

Running has provided Mason Villarma with the discipline needed to set and achieve goals, not only with the sport but in other aspects of life.

It's training he will lean on as he is taking on two new part-time jobs in addition to his full-time work as the borough's finance director.

On June 20, the school board voted to accept two contracts for Villarma: One as the high school assistant cross country running coach and another as the activities director for the school district.

Villarma sees both as a chance to give back to Wrangell, which was one of the reasons he moved here.

"I came up here to give back to a community that's been a huge part of my development," he said. "I came up here every summer since I was a kid. Wrangell shaped a lot of my life. If I can give back to the kids in high school and below, that will be pretty great. It would mean a lot to me."

The commitments will be time consuming, but Villarma said his current position with the borough allows him to be flexible with his schedule, coming in early and leaving early if necessary.

"That's just Mason. He's a pretty hard worker," said Jeff Good, borough manager. "We've had some folks who coach, and when they take those (away game) trips, they're using their vacation time."

Good said being a small community means people will take on additional roles. The borough supports that as much as possible. "Anyone that can help in different areas is a good thing."

As the assistant cross country coach, Villarma will be working with head coach Kayla Rooney, who has been helming the team for a couple of years. Villarma started running at the elementary school level and discovered a passion for the sport early on.

"I started enjoying it and seemed to have a knack for it in junior high," he said. "I broke the junior high record and really started liking running. You kind of naturally like what you're best at."

At Gonzaga University, in Spokane, Washington, Villarma ranked No. 9 in the country for the 1,500-meter event. He struggled with injuries in his sophomore year, then went onto the first round of the national championships for NCAA Division I in Sacramento, California, his junior year.

"Through all that, I learned there's not a right way to train. There's a lot of different philosophies out there," he said. "You can say there's a good fit for each style of runner. I learned a ton of different styles of running and what worked for me, and what worked for me didn't work for some of my friends. I've got several different approaches that can fit different kids."

Villarma looks forward to showing kids how running can benefit other aspects of their life.

"It's very transferable," he said. "Running is funny because you do have to be very disciplined. The routine of running transfers over to professional life all the time. It's very goal-oriented, so applying the same to professional life is natural."

Along with coaching, Villarma will take on the role of the school district activities director.

In the past, the activities director had to book travel arrangements for Wrangell's sports teams, but that job will be handled by assistants at the schools, he said. He's aware of the time needed to fill the position, as are school administrative staff.

Villarma admitted it could be tough at times, but he's "super committed" to making it work. He also wants to bring more activities back to Wrangell, such as more athletic events hosted by Wrangell rather than other communities. He can see working with businesses in the community to create partnerships, such as utilizing bunkhouses at Trident Seafoods for visiting teams or hosting cross country meets at Muskeg Meadows.

"I've already been asked, 'You have one thankless job, how are you going to do a second one,'" he said with a laugh.


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