The two remaining candidates vying for the Kenai Peninsula Borough Mayor’s seat pitched their platforms to an audience Tuesday.
Self-described borough watchdog and Soldotna resident Fred Sturman and former borough mayor and state legislator Mike Navarre talked through their views on the borough, its future and their management styles at a joint Kenai and Soldotna chambers of commerce luncheon at the Soldotna Sports Complex.
Sturman started the forum by explaining he is a “pretty plain-spoken man.”
“I think if you’ll sit down and talk to me, I think that you’ll find that I’m a pretty fair man and I like to listen … and that’s the way I plan on running the borough,” he said. “Just because we disagree, it don’t mean I won’t sit down and buy you a cup of coffee or lunch and talk about the stuff going on in the deal.”
Navarre said most people, including himself, don’t realize “what the job really is” when they are first elected to the mayor’s position.
“It is a full-time administrative responsibility,” he said. “Yes, you have to build a strong team and I built a strong team the last time I was mayor and that’s what I will do again. To my management style, I have very much an open door policy, I talk with the department directors and the people within the departments and try to build a strong team to resolve problems as they arise.”
Sturman said he doesn’t consider himself a micro-manager.
“I don’t think the mayor should be the person that should do a lot of the day-to-day management of the borough,” he said. “The first thing you’ve got to do is put a good team together and that team does the day-to-day management. The mayor should be the person that looks two, three years out and sets a tone of what borough is going to do.”
Navarre said he wasn’t sure if he was going to hire a chief of staff, but that most of the current administrative staff will likely remain in place. He said he would take the time to learn about what is going on in the borough and then “determine who is doing their job, who is not doing their job, where changes need to be made and address changes from that stand point.”
Sturman said he would have a chief of staff, but that he didn’t want to “upset the applecart” with his approach to managing the borough’s administration.
“As far as the people running the borough, I have no intentions of slashing and burning, which has been said several times,” he said.
Both were asked what their weaknesses are.
“I have, over the years, learned to work around all of my weaknesses that I have and whenever I become your borough mayor, I know how to handle my weaknesses … my strengths and I guarantee you that I wouldn’t be here today if I dwelled on my weaknesses,” Sturman said.
Navarre said his weakness was being “too focused” during his three-years as mayor starting in 1996.
“The last time I was mayor, I was focused on doing the job, not communicating what we were doing,” he said. “I think that is a weakness that I intend to correct … to be a much better communicator.”
When asked about a borough measure recently passed to protect the bank habitiat of anadromous streams across the borough, Sturman said he didn’t support it and doubted the borough had the “policing powers” to enforce it.
“It is another hindrance of the J-O-B, jobs on the Kenai Peninsula,” he said. “I am for clean water and all that kind of stuff, but we don’t need to start putting a lot more permits and stuff people have to get to access to develop their land so there is some jobs on the Kenai Peninsula.”
Navarre said he would support it because it was his duty to uphold borough regulations. He added he would work to make sure the ordinance wasn’t a “burden” on development.
“I quite honestly haven’t looked at the scope of that, but I know that it makes sense in the sense of protecting streams when there is development,” he said. “That makes sense to protect our fisheries and our fisheries habitat.”
Overall, Navarre said would maintain an open and responsible decision making process.
“That’s what I do every time regardless of campaign contributions or political support during a campaign,” he said. “Once you are elected in an office, your responsibility is to all the citizens and communities in the Kenai Peninsula Borough.”
Sturman said his lack of political experience wouldn’t hinder his performance if elected.
“I am not a politician, I am a problem solver,” he said. “… Yes, I have very little education if you want to call it that, I have got a high school education, but over 46 years, I have got a heck of an education in hard knocks.”