Growing up in Kenai, he knew he wanted to be an engineer because math and science came naturally to him. After his education in New York and his first job in Los Angeles, he brought his experience home.
Kyle Kornelis graduated from Kenai Central High School in 1998, and after four years of college at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in upstate New York, five years working for Los Angeles County and 3 1/2 years working at the Kenai Peninsula Borough, he was named the Soldotna city engineer in June 2010. The position has allowed Kornelis, 32, to help the city meet the community’s needs and be able to give back to the community.
“The best part of the job is seeing projects accomplished,” Kornelis said. “Starting in the beginning stages of a project and then reaching a final completion and then seeing the positive affects of accomplishing it.”
Having young professionals come home and play vital roles in the city’s government is something Soldotna Mayor Peter Micciche welcomes as a way to improve the community.
“In Soldotna, I attribute a large part of our success to individuals that have come back and that are lifelong residents,” Micciche said.
Soldotna city planner Stephanie Queen, another KCHS graduate, also returned to the central Peninsula.
“They come back because they have a passion for the community the way it is,” Micciche said. “But they bring a knowledge of other communities and bring back the best practices of where they were educated and where they garnered their expertise.”
Part of Kornelis’ job is public involvement — he gets questions from the public about the city’s infrastructure and general questions that relate to the building department or roads.
“We’re fortunate that there is good community feedback and response,” Kornelis said. “I think the community recognizes that their voice is heard whether or not their goal gets accomplished.”
Kornelis was settling into his new position when the conceptual designs were finished for the Soldotna Community Memorial Park.
“It’s neat I got to be involved with the creation of Soldotna’s one and only cemetery,” Kornelis said. “That was a wonderful product that we’re going to continue to enjoy for a long time.”
Kornelis was still working for the borough when Soldotna Creek Park was implemented, but he said the community did a wonderful job coordinating various components to make it happen.
“Everything from fundraisers to communicating with the design team and then an enormous community,” he said.
When the time came to construct the playground, Kornelis was one of the many volunteers who donated their time to the project.
“I walked in and there was a handful of our local builders in there, taking measurements, sawing and cutting,” he said. “(There were) kids carrying lumber back and forth — it was pretty amazing the number of volunteers that supported that playground.”
To Kornelis, the playground is something in which the community takes pride.
“I think that most people in our community have a sense of pride when they talk about the playground that was developed and built,” he said.
Despite the many projects that were in progress when he started his job with the city, the Soldotna library expansion is one Kornelis will be apart of from start to finish.
“Everything from a concept and a plan to fill a recognized need all the way until we open the doors and people get to enjoy it,” he said. “So there’s obviously a big sense of accomplishment getting projects like that accomplished.”
There are several projects lined up for 2012. One of them is an energy audit of all of the city’s facilities. The audit will allow the city to take improvement measures, most of which will pay for themselves, Kornelis said.
“We will have the opportunity to enter into a performance contract that will guarantee energy savings to cover the cost of those improvement measures in a certain amount of time,” he said. “That’s pretty exciting.”
One of those improvements is possibly changing all of the city’s traffic lights to LED, or light emitting diode, technology, which consumes less energy.
“LEDs can get that energy consumption reduction, they can consume less energy but mimic the more traditional lighting,” Kornelis said.
No matter the size of the project, Kornelis approaches each one that comes across his desk with the same passion.
“There are lots of neat little projects, I’m a typical engineering nerd because they’re pretty cool projects,” he said.