Three very important community institutions celebrated collectively their golden anniversaries Thursday, August 14th at the Kenai Peninsula College (KPC) Kenai River campus. The Kenai Peninsula Borough, the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District and the KPC all cut the cake and received public accolades for five decades of service to the community. Officials were on hand to share memories as well as look to the next 50 years. “As an interesting comparison 50 years ago when the initial school budget was passed which was a six month budget for the district it totaled $23,000. I was an eighth grader at that point but times have changed,” commented Joe Arness, president of the KPBSD school board.
The afternoon and free community barbeque started out with rain but when KPC director Gary Turner stepped to the microphone to welcome folks, the clouds parted and the rain stopped, “I think that was Clayton Brockel KPC’s first director just smiling down on us just like he did when we dedicated the new buildings last fall shortly after his passing,” replied Turner. “What a great occasion this day is, we have three great organizations the Borough, the School District and the college that have been collaborating and working together so well for fifty years being here together is a true monument to what life on the Kenai Peninsula is really all about,” he said. The story goes that Clayton Brockel started KPC in a broom closet of the original Kenai High School, “Broom closet it was not,” replied Brockel’s wife Jeane, “But it was a storage closet,” she added. “The growth has been so positive, as we all know bigger is not always better, but I meet people every day who say I went to the college and it changed my life and I’m so glad it was here. The growth has been phenomenal and very positive. I don’t know if Clayton thought the college would turn out like it is today but this was Clayton’s church. Some people put all their passion into building a church and this was his church, something he believed in firmly and passionately,” said Brockel. Jeane Brockel was honored with an Alaska legislative citation of service at the event presented by Sen. Peter Micciche.
Addressing the Borough’s anniversary Mayor Mike Navarre said, “It’s been a remarkable achievement for the Borough we been in existence for 50 years with 8 different borough mayors including my father and Don Gilman. Don Gilman was the longest serving borough mayor serving I think 14 years and did a great job for us all. The Borough has enjoyed the support of the community because a government cannot succeed without the support of the people that it governs and we’ve had great assembly members and great community support and that has brought us a long long way, but it’s still about a lot of people working together to accomplish a great deal on behalf of all the residents that live in the community,” said Navarre. A time capsule was buried to be opened on the 100th Anniversary of the Borough, the School District and the college with mementos from the first 50 years.