Kenai Peninsula voters have selected Mike Navarre, a 55-year-old area businessman and well-known former legislator, to be their next borough mayor.
According to information released by the borough clerk’s office Friday, Navarre took 5,039 votes, or 52.68 percent of the vote, which is about 500 more votes than Fred Sturman, who gathered 4,526 votes, or 47.32 percent.
Of the 41,067 registered borough voters, 9,600 cast a ballot in the election, which is a voter turnout of 23.4 percent, according to the borough.
In total, borough officials had to count 1,893 absentee ballots after the Tuesday election. There was just a 233 vote difference between the two candidates after Tuesday’s voting. Navarre took 1,075 of the absentee votes to Sturman’s 818.
“I feel good,” Navarre said. “I have been anxious the last few days. Cautiously optimistic, but I’m not one to take anything for granted. Now that it is over, Fred and I have talked and we are going to get together at some point in the next several days … and talk with each other.”
The election numbers will not be finalized until Tuesday as the canvass board will review any absentee by-mail ballots, or by-mail precinct ballots received on Monday or Tuesday, borough clerk Johni Blankenship said in an email to press.
Navarre, considered a front-runner in the election by many, previously served a three-year term as borough mayor starting in 1996, served from 1985 to 1996 in the state legislature and has run his family’s businesses interests, which include several Arby’s and Radio Shack locations, for more than a decade.
Navarre and Sturman advanced to the run-off election after emerging from a field of candidates that included former borough mayor Dale Bagley, former borough assembly member Debbie Brown, former assembly member Gary Superman and Nikiski resident Tim O’Brien.
Sturman said Friday he would consider running for the position again if he felt his health was good enough.
“We put up our best fight and I basically want to thank all the people that did vote,” Sturman said. “Only one person out of five got up and voted so the people that did vote got their will and we will live with their will.
“I’m proud of my campaign and Mike ran a good, clean campaign and so I can’t really complain.”
Current Mayor Dave Carey endorsed Navarre for the position before the election.
“I was pleased with the campaigns that all six candidates ran, and I think Mike will do a very fine job,” Carey said. “I think experience is absolutely a critical issue that he has the experience with the borough, but also he has connections with the state.”
Borough assembly president Gary Knopp said he was glad to have Navarre as mayor.
“Mike’s smart, energetic, he’s been there, he knows the ropes, he is going to be a great mayor and I am excited to have him in there,” he said. “Although I will say Mr. Sturman ran an excellent campaign. This is about as close a race as I have seen in my 30 years here.”
Navarre will be sworn into office on Thursday, but will start his position on Nov. 7, per state law.
Navarre said he has been mulling over how to move forward.
“Obviously that is not going to happen overnight, but I am looking forward to the challenge and being accountable to the residents,” he said.
As of Friday, he hadn’t made any staffing decisions.
“I am going to spend the weekend and the next week or so trying to figure out what I really want to do and get my feet on the ground before I make any major decisions,” he said.
Navarre said he felt “cautiously optimistic” heading into the election, but was feeling a “bit of anxiety” as well on Friday.
He said he thought his combination of experience in government and in business put him ahead of Sturman with voters.
“I have a track record, so I guess people just thought I was the best choice,” he said. “It was a close race so there are obviously a lot of people out there who are frustrated with government. I guess I like to think that they like my responsible approach to government.”
Navarre said his time spent campaigning didn’t change his stances much.
“The only change I can really think of is that I spent a lot of time traveling around the borough and hearing from residents about some of the issues and the various communities and I will do a lot more of that,” he said. “Beyond that, I haven’t changed much.
“My approach to government is a reasoned, responsible approach. I know that government needs to be accountable to the citizens. My decision making process is what it is, I’m very deliberative about the way I do things and I try to make my decisions based on what I believe is in the best public interest and that was the theme of my campaign consistently and that’s how I am as a person.”