Kenai City Manager Rick Koch was named the Alaska Municipal League’s Municipal Employee of the Year last weekend in Fairbanks.
But Koch credits his accomplishments as a city manager to the city as a whole.
“This award is a reflection of the high quality of the citizens of Kenai, the City of Kenai employees, the Kenai City Council, and our Legislative delegation,” Koch wrote in a statement.
Koch said the award came as a surprise. He was nominated by Mayor Pat Porter.
“Rick’s ability to think ahead and think globally, has resulted in significant accomplishments that benefit our City ...” Porter wrote.
In her letter, Porter listed a host of projects that Koch has helped shepherd to fruition, including Kenai’s industrial park, his work facilitating the Cook Inlet Natural Gas Storage Alaska project and the bluff stabilization project.
Koch listed many of the same efforts as examples of the city coming together to make things happen. One such project is an effort to bring the airport out of the red.
“When I got here, the airport for the previous 10 years had been operating at a deficit,” Koch said.
Since then, he helped develop and institute a plan to make it profitable. He attributed the success of that effort to former finance director Larry Semmens and airport manager Mary Bondurant.
“Our staff at the airport ... have worked hard to make that happen,” Koch said.
Other successful endeavors he’s helped Kenai with include removing color from city water, and responding to the personal-use fishery. He’s also proud of how all employees have come together to accomplish a growing workload without adding too many employees to the city’s payroll.
The Alaska Municipal League gives out the award each year at its Local Government Conference.
AML’s Kathie Wasserman said the award often goes to city clerks, finance directors, harbor masters, and other municipal employees. City managers are honored less often.
“I think for a city manager to get it is pretty darn good,” Wasserman said.
A former city manager, Wasserman said the job is a challenging one that asks the employee to balance two bosses: a city council and the public.
“I think that Rick got it sort of shows that he’s able to work with his council and the public,” she said.
Wasserman said two people were nominated for the honor this year. The 26-member AML board of directors slected Koch as the winner.
Koch said he was humbled, but embarrassed to be singled out for work done by a whole group.
“It really is a reflection on a whole bunch of people,” Koch said.
Molly Dischner can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.