While throughout his career as founder and executive director of the Kenai Watershed Forum (KWF) Robert Ruffner received many esteemed national awards for his accomplishments. The awards he received last week at his retirement roast seemed to bring Ruffner equal pleasure. Over 50 friends and supporters bought tickets to the roast which allegedly was kept a secret from the former Board of Fish nominee, “Well, actually I became a bit suspicious that something was goofy when Peter showed up on time to pick me up, because he’s never on time,” Ruffner confessed. Sen. Micciche was charged with getting Ruffner to the Triumvirate Theatre in Kenai. Ruffner was given an easy seat of honor stage left beneath two Kayaks which he undoubtedly will be spending more time in 2016, while a panel of friends and officials recalled satirically his life at KWF.
“I feel really good about what happened here tonight,” he told the Dispatch in an interview following the roast. “Being honored or appreciated or whatever this was tonight is a setting I usually do not feel comfortable in, but it was meaningful for me tonight to see the diversity of people who came out tonight to show their support for what I’ve done the past 19 years. The Watershed Forum is strong and is going to continue on doing what it has done because it has a good board of directors. I’m encouraged and happy to see that while I take some time off to see what I’m going to do next. This was a great way to send me off and greatly appreciated,” said Ruffner. He added that he feels good about what the future holds for the Peninsula but pointed to a few things yet to be done, “Everybody knows about the struggles around our fisheries type issues and we desperately need an organization like the Kenai Watershed Forum to bring these people together to work on solutions for these issues in the future. I have a very positive outlook for the future and feel it’s very bright because of our work with the youth and their vision for our community,” said Ruffner.
Soldotna Chamber of Commerce President Ryan Kapp said Ruffner was a great communicator and “the only person (he) knew who could make 50 people attend the dedication of a culvert,” a reference to KWF’s passable culverts program, one of the largest at Slikock Creek where the Chamber of Commerce held a luncheon dedication a few years ago. The culvert program replaced older culverts beneath roads with ones designed to be more passable to the anadromous fish and has opened miles of new salmon habitat at great savings to the state. Soldotna Mayor Pete Sprague remembered how when working with Robert you could always tell when he was becoming frustrated with something because his voice would go up a few octaves and he would say, “That’s just goofy!” Sprague then presented Ruffner with a stuffed Goofy doll. Kapp also had a present for Ruffner, a board mounted with plastic fish as a token of time he never served on the Board of Fish due to one vote. The night’s skits concluded with one in which Ruffner played himself, reenacting a satirical take of his legislative confirmation hearing last spring in Juneau.