Step on up, take a seat

A guide to getting involved in Kenai Peninsula local government

Voters cast their ballots at the Kasilof Fire Station on Tuesday, Oct. 4, 2016 in Kasilof, Alaska. (Photo by Elizabeth Earl/Peninsula Clarion, file)

With 42 elected offices opening up this fall, Kenai Peninsula residents will have ample opportunity to get involved in local governments. On October 3, voters will elect new members to the Kenai Peninsula Borough assembly, board of education, borough mayor’s office, Kenai and Soldotna city councils, and numerous service area boards. For those considering the further step of adding their names to that ballot, here is an overview of how to start.

 

While each group’s particular candidate requirements are detailed below, the state’s election administrator — the Alaska Public Offices Commission (APOC) — has some requirements for all prospective candidates. Before starting to campaign or take contributions, all will have to file either a letter of intent with APOC or a declaration of candidacy with a city clerk, and register their campaign with APOC within seven days afterward. Candidates for city councils, the borough assembly, and school board will also have to report their campaign contributions and spending to APOC. Service area board candidate won’t have to file APOC financial disclosures. Nor will candidates who don’t plan to spend more than $5,000 on campaigning, thought they must instead file for an exemption to the reporting requirement, according to APOC’s candidate handbook.

Various elected bodies have their own due dates for declarations of candidacy. For APOC, deadlines for financial disclosures are spread throughout the year, with the next on September 3. Disclosures can be submitted at APOC’s website.

State code also requires candidate’s yard signs, videos and other advertisements in every race to identify the group that paid for them.

Kenai Peninsula Borough

So you want to get involved in Kenai Peninsula Borough government?

Great! There are 33 spots up for election this October. Step on up.

The Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly has five seats open. First of all, figure out if you live in a district where there’s a seat up for grabs. Seats will be available in District 1, which covers the K-Beach area; District 2, which covers most of the city of Kenai; District 5, which covers western Sterling and Funny River; District 6, which covers eastern Sterling and the entire eastern Kenai Peninsula; and District 8, which covers the city of Homer.

The big job — borough mayor — is also up for grabs, with incumbent Borough Mayor Mike Navarre reaching his term limit in October. Any resident from anywhere in the borough can run.

There are 28 seats open on service area boards around the peninsula, with terms ranging between one and three years. Service area board members help determine the budget and services in a particular service area and are volunteer positions. The elections are not usually contested, and many service area boards have vacant seats already.

Getting started

To run for a borough office, candidates have to file a declaration of candidacy form with the borough clerk’s office. They became available Monday. The first day candidates can file is Aug. 1.

To qualify for office in the borough government, a candidate has to be at least 18, be a qualified voter in Alaska and have lived in his or her district or service area for at least 180 days. In the case of the borough mayor, the candidate can live anywhere in the borough.

The forms are available online or in paper at the borough building in Soldotna and the borough’s annexes in Seward, Homer, and Seldovia and have to be filed by Aug. 15 at 4:30 p.m. at any of the borough offices. The information requested on the declaration of candidacy is fairly bare-bones, including physical address, how many years the person has lived in the borough, a mailing address, what district he or she is running in and how his or her name should appear on the ballot.

The financial disclosure statement, which have to be filed online and then submitted in paper to the borough clerk, asks for the candidate to outline where his or her income comes from, including non-work sources such as investments, pensions and Permanent Fund Dividend checks. The candidate’s immediate family members’ income sources have to be included as well.

A week after the first forms are filed, the candidate has to file a statement saying they either registered with the Alaska Public Offices Commission or are exempt from filing with that agency. The form has to be either signed in person or by fax when filed.

The duties

Borough assembly members are required to attend as many meetings as possible in person, review proposed ordinances and write legislation and interact with their constituents by email, phone and in person. Regular meetings are typically held the first and third Tuesdays of every month, but may vary depending on scheduling.

Assembly members receive a monthly car allowance and mileage reimbursement, meals at the meetings and $25 per month for internet access, as well as a stipend — $400 for regular members and $500 for the assembly president, who is elected at the beginning of each electoral year. Assembly members can also choose to participate in health and life insurance benefits,which are the same as those provided to borough department heads.

The borough mayor oversees all the borough’s employees and operations and is typically seen as more of an administrative role than a ceremonial role. He or she will have to draft and propose a budget each year, reviewing all of the borough’s functions, work with the assembly, negotiate contracts with the public employee unions and represent the borough on the Alaska Municipal League’s Conference of Mayors, among many other duties. Municipal code sets out the mayor’s salary as $99,000 per year.

Service area board members are volunteers, with no stipend included. They serve on staggered three-year terms, and the boards meet at various times and locations, depending on the area included. Service area boards usually review actions proposed by the chiefs and administrators of the service area functions and approve them, which the assembly takes into consideration before issuing final approval or denial.

Kenai Peninsula Borough School District Board of Education

Members of the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District’s Board of Education are elected for staggered three-year terms. This year, four seats are open on the Oct. 3 ballot.

Three seats with three-year terms are available in the Nikiski, Soldotna and Central districts, currently held by Joe Arness, Penny Vadla and Bill Holt, respectively. A one-year term is open in the Homer district, currently held by Mike Illg.

To be eligible for a seat on the board, a person must be at least 18 years old and maintain legal residence within the boundaries of their election district.

The Board of Education generally meets on the first Monday of each month for anywhere from one to three hours, with the possibility of special meetings. Work sessions are also held during the day before each regular meeting.

Responsibilities of Board of Education members include selecting a district superintendent and appointing all school employees, developing and adopting policies, adopting an annual budget and serving as the citizen’s link to the school district, according to board documents.

To file for candidacy for a borough position, the required forms are available on the borough’s website or at the borough offices at 144 North Binkley in Soldotna, the Seward Borough Annex, the Homer Borough Annex and the Seldovia City Clerk’s Office.

Candidates for the Board of Education must file a Declaration of Candidacy form by 4:30 p.m. Aug. 15.

For more information on how to run for the board of education, call (907)-714-2160.

Kenai City Council

Kenai’s mayor and seven city council members serve three year terms, with two council seats coming open each year. Candidates don’t run for specific seats — the two top vote-getters will take the two open positions. The council’s regular meetings are the first and third Monday of each month. In addition, each council members attends the monthly meetings of one of Kenai’s nine commissions and committees, serving as a liaison for the council.

This year the seats of present council members Tim Navarre and Henry Knackstedt will be open. Prospective new council members can enter the race by collecting twenty signatures on a nominating petition, though acting Kenai City Clerk Jamie Heinz recommends “obtaining more than the required signatures to ensure sufficiency of your petition” in her information sheet on the process. Nominating petitions are available now on the city of Kenai’s website. The completed petitions are due in Heinz’s office by 10 a.m on August 15.

Along with the signed petition, prospective candidates must fill out a candidate information package, submitted with a photo to be included in the borough voter information pamphlet. More information can be found at the Kenai city website.

Soldotna City Council and Mayor

Declaration of candidacy forms are now available in Soldotna for the two open city council seats and the mayoral seat on the October 3 ballot.

The mayoral seat and Seats B and F on the city council are up for election for a three-year term, expiring October 2020.

Interested candidates must be a resident of Soldotna for at least one year prior to their date of declaration as well as a U.S. citizen and qualified voter.

Candidate filing period begins at 9 a.m. on August 1 and closes on August 15 at 4:30 p.m.

Candidates must file a declaration of candidacy with the Soldotna City Clerk by August 15 to be considered. They must also file a public official financial disclosure statement with the City Clerk when filing their declaration.

Information on the candidates will appear on the city’s website, including their biography and candidate statement, which must be 200 words or less and will be printed exactly as written, spelling or grammar mistakes included.

All required forms are available online or at the city of Soldotna office at 177 North Birch Street.

The city of Soldotna also offers a 2017 Candidate Handbook and anyone with further questions are urged to contact the city clerk at (907) 714-1223.

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