A former state legislator and well-known area businessman has decided to throw his hat into the ring for the borough mayor's seat, which will be vacant in October.
Mike Navarre, also a former borough mayor from 1996 to 1999, announced Tuesday he would file a letter of intent to run for the mayor position currently held by Dave Carey, who isn't seeking re-election.
Navarre's announcement brings the total number of candidates jousting for the position to six. The other candidates are Dale Bagley and Fred Sturman, both of Soldotna, Debbie Brown of Kasilof, Ron Long of Seward and Gary Superman of Nikiski.
The 55-year-old resident, who lives just outside Kenai city limits in the Kalifornski Beach area, said he had been contemplating running for the position for "quite some time."
"I've been through the soul searching that comes along with any political endeavor where you are putting yourself out in front of the public open to criticism and seeking their support to trust you with the responsibility that goes along with being mayor," he said.
Navarre first ran for public office when he was 21, but was elected to the Alaska Legislature when he was 28. He served in the Legislature for 12 years before leaving to run for borough mayor. He served a three-year term, but lost a re-election bid for the position in 1999.
"I'm not running against any candidate," he said. "I'm running because I think that I have the best mix of experience, management style, education, community involvement. And, I think support, but obviously that's a decision that is going to be left up to the voters."
Navarre said his management philosophy could be summed with one word - responsible.
"I'm a consensus builder - you know I have to be to be in a family and to manage a family business," he said. "When I was in the Legislature, I worked well with all the political parties and many different governors and worked well with all of them. I think that's what we need because there are a lot of issues on the horizon."
One of the biggest issues facing the new borough mayor, Navarre said, was the future of the Central Peninsula Hospital and health care on the Peninsula.
"You have to look at where health care is going and try to figure out how to best manage the assets that you have to provide the best benefit for the communities and the people who live here," he said. "That takes a lot of time - you have to engage communities, business groups, special interests and everybody who uses the health care facility."
Navarre has also served on the Central Peninsula General Hospital Inc. board for six months, he said.
Moreover, Navarre said he would focus on strategic planning not only at the hospital, but across the borough to determine "where the dollars are being spent and why."
He said he wants to craft a "responsible budget" that takes into account trends in the fund balance and population growth while "building public confidence in what's happening with the decisions that are being made on their behalf by their elected officials."
"The dollars that are spent on any program or issue, you have to ask why it's being done," he said. "And then you can determine whether or not it is the responsible thing to do ... across all budget areas, whether they are special funds, service area funds, whether its general government funds, education or non-departmental."
Navarre also questioned recent actions by the Kenai Peninsula Borough assembly, which voted to place a question on the October ballot asking voters whether or not they would like to raise the sales tax one tenth of a percent to fund economic development and non-departmental agencies.
He said he wouldn't have advocated for the measure and doubts the success it would find with voters. Funding of such departments should still be left up to the mayor and assembly at budget time.
"If it fails, it doesn't mean economic development and figuring out how you advance economic development goals in the borough go away," he said.
Navarre said he was pleased with his former service to the borough. If elected, he said he would also like to better disseminate to residents what actions the borough is taking and the reasons for those actions.
"The easy thing is to go out and say, ‘I'm going to go out and cut taxes and cut government,'" he said. "But, if you look at what has happened in this borough in the last 10 years, the population has grown significantly, the budget has grown significantly and taxes have also grown. How you best manage that is a process. I'm fairly analytical in the way I approach things and I also listen and try to incorporate diverse opinions into that process."