Back in 1996 when Borough Mayor Don Gilman had the idea of one stop shopping for state and borough permitting John Mahorschich was the one who got the ball rolling. He kept the ball rolling as the vision became a reality and Mahorschich became the director of the first Kenai River Center when a cooperative agreement was reached between the State of Alaska and Kenai Peninsula Borough. “It was Don’s vision and I just happened to have the lucky opportunity to take the vision forward,” said Mahorschich at small retirement luncheon in his honor at the Donald E. Gilman River Center last week. In September of 2000 the River Center relocated to a new building across from the Soldotna Airport and after he passed away ____the River Center was renamed the Donald E. Gilman River Center in his honor and more appropriately because the Center handles permits for the entire Kenai Peninsula Borough.
Upon retiring Mahorschich said, “The time has gone fast and I hope that most folks appreciate the effort we’ve made to have the overlapping agencies available all under one roof to be better able to serve them and expedite the permitting process. My focus has always been to be able to help people out because if we are not here to help people through the process and make it understandable for them then we are part of the problem and the staff here has always been willing to go the extra mile and go out to the property and work with folks.”
His replacement has yet to be named but John says he plans on staying in the area, “My wife says one thing I won’t be doing is cooking, she doesn’t like spaghetti and that’s about the only thing I can put together,” he laughed, “But I plan on staying here, we love the community and I’m wired to be busy so I’m sure I’ll be back at it in one capacity or another real soon,” he said.
Rather than a gold watch at his retirement Mahorschich was presented with a pair of gold painted running shoes, “I guess that’s because running around has always been a part of me or maybe because they want to run me out of here, but most likely because I love to run and have always been involved with volunteering to coach young people from elementary to high school in athletic activities so I guess I’ve finally earned my golden shoes and the personalized directors megaphone is something I got for Boss’s Day and certainly comes in handy around here,” explained Mahorschich. While the Kenai Peninsula Borough operates the River Center representatives from Alaska State Parks, Alaska Department of Fish & Game, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Kenai Watershed Forum all have offices in the building and work closely with local offices of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, U.S. Dept. of Environmental Conservation and other agencies. The Center was designed to serve as a source of information and education for landowners and others concerned with resource management. Under the leadership of Mahorschich the Center has been recognized with national awards and recently was praised by Assistant Secretary of the Interior Anne Castle during a visit to the Peninsula. After presenting the River Center with a national award she said, “This is unique, I have never seen a center like this. We talk about one stop shopping for permits and regulatory advice on projects, but I have never seen it like this.” John Mahorschich may have retired but he and former Borough Mayor Don Gilman have left a legacy that will continue to improve regulatory agencies and our quality of life.