Mayoral candidates tackle variety of issues

Candidates jousting for the Kenai Peninsula Borough Mayor's seat answered Tuesday a variety of questions about how they would handle the position if elected.


All candidates, save for Nikiski resident Tim O'Brien, attended the forum hosted by the Soldotna Chamber of Commerce at the Soldotna Sports Center. Current mayor Dave Carey is not running for re-election. O'Brien is running a "word of mouth" campaign, he said in a letter to the editor.

Candidates were give an opportunity to make opening and closing statements, in addition to answering questions unique to their campaign.

Soldotna resident Fred Sturman said the biggest reason he is running for the position is because he has attended "a lot" of borough assembly meetings and is "preaching that the borough is spending too much money" and the "taxes are getting too high."

Sturman was asked about his proposed budget cuts, specifically that residents have concerns that he would dismantle the core of a good operation with them.

"I don't think I have proposed to cut anything - I'm figuring on efficiencies," he said. "... I am going to ask the employees to give me ideas on how I can cut. Who else is better to tell you how you can save money on the budget than the people that's using the money."

Sturman also outlined his personal approach on finances.

"You never spend more money that you've got, you always plan for the worst and hope for the best with your money and ... you always watch your pennies and your dollars will take care of themselves," he said.

He also said he doesn't want to run the borough like it has been run in the past.

"I know a lot of you guys think that I am crazy and all of the other stuff over the years, but I think I have been pretty well right most of the time," he said.

Former borough mayor Dale Bagley said he is running for election because the Peninsula has a "diversified economy with tourism, oil and gas and commercial fishing," and that he wants to do everything he can to "keep all three industries strong and healthy."

"I also want to do what I can to make borough government friendly and efficient to the people," he said.

Bagley was asked to specifically name three areas where he would like to focus his streamlining efforts.

"I don't have too many things I am running on as far as what I want to streamline," he said.

He also outlined several efficiencies he made when he was borough mayor previously, but added "it's really hard when you have been on the outside and I have been on the outside for six years now."

He said the mayor should "listen to what people at the borough say and make changes when you can."

Bagley also mentioned that he had been listening to borough residents' concerns throughout the summer, and that's one of his strengths.

"I listen to people, I make good decisions, and I get along with the assembly," he said.

Former assembly member Gary Superman said he might be looked upon as the "odd man out" with the two former borough mayors in the candidate field, "but that's fine."

"A lot of people have said, ‘Gary, I'm glad to see you in there because you are going to keep them honest,'" he said.

Superman was asked about his time spent going "head to head" with the Alliance of Concerned Taxpayers and "differing with the administration."

"We didn't see eye to eye on many issues and that's unfortunate, too," he said. "There are plenty of similarities, believe it or not, between some of my philosophies and theirs."

He said he also brought all sides together last year when he worked with the assembly on the budget process and funding of the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District.

"I think there were people who understood finally that we needed to do something about funding to the cap and ... everybody came to consensus on it and we went below the cap last year," he said.

Superman added he was a "trench guy," had learned the mechanics of the borough and there is "no doubt" he has a different perspective and is outside of the "establishment."

"But, I've always been fair, and I've always been reasonable and I always try and communicate on both sides of the aisle," he said.

Former assembly member Debbie Brown said it is "an honor" to be running for the mayor's seat and to have served the borough in the past.

"We have the heart and the disposition and the fight and the care - that is what motivates people to run and it's what's motivating me to run," she said. "I care. I care about our kids sincerely."

Brown was asked about her support for an all-Alaska in state gas pipeline and if it illustrates a lack of attention to borough-specific issues, considering it is a large part of her campaign.

She said all the boroughs in the state need to work together to solve the state's energy crisis.

"Every family needs energy - it's foundational as to how we may be successful as business people, every small business, every family," she said.

However, she won't "drop the ball of the day-to-day operations of the borough."

"I will work harder than anybody else to accomplish some very positive things for our community," she said.

She also said she found a "big problem" that was "embarrassing" while she served the public previously.

"I've learned from serving on many elected bodies and/or appointed bodies that most of the men do not read their packets," she said. "I have learned that most of the people, men included, don't have the time, or the level of commitment to read every page and they are not prepared generally speaking."

Former state representative and borough mayor Mike Navarre said he isn't going to make a lot of promises during his campaign.

"But, I what I promise to do as your next mayor is to listen, make my decisions objectively and fairly and based on the best available information with a lot of input from the community, residents and others," he said.

Navarre was asked about borough assembly term limits and if he agreed with recent action taken by the assembly to define a term.

"I think what the assembly did, and what I think makes sense is try to define a term as two, full three-year terms and I think that makes sense," he said. "I support it and I don't think it flies in the face of what voters were trying to do."

Navarre also addressed his campaign donations and their sources.

Their source "doesn't change me as a person or change the way I make decisions as an elected official," he said.

"I did a good job as your mayor, and I think we can expect more of the same if I am elected mayor," he said. "I don't promise to cut government or to cut taxes. What I promise you is that I will be responsible about the way that I implement policy and put a budget together."