At last week's national convention, Republicans fought to turn a perceived weakness of their vice-presidential nominee — a lack of experience — into a signature strength, saying Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin had more executive experience than both members of the Democratic ticket combined.
Six years of her executive experience came as mayor of Wasilla, a city north of Anchorage that had about 5,000 residents when she took over. As much of Palin's hometown rallies with pride around her, 1,400 miles away — in a National Archives warehouse in Seattle — three boxes of documents help capture the quality of her mayoral experience.
These records, from a federal wrongful-termination lawsuit, include memos to administrators and personnel records stamped "confidential." The documents, combined with accounts from her hometown newspaper, show how Palin's first year as mayor could easily have been her last.
She became embroiled in personnel challenges, a thwarted attempt to pack the City Council and a standoff with her local newspaper. Her first months were so contentious and polarizing that critics started talking recall.
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Her first months also exposed threads that would later become patterns &mash; friends become enemies, enemies become friends and questions get raised about why she fired this person or that person.
But the situation calmed, and rather than being recalled, Palin was re-elected. She later acknowledged, "I grew tremendously in my early months as mayor."
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