Even when George Pierce isn’t occupying his usual perch — back row, near the door — listening to the Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly’s proceedings, he is likely listening on the radio from his home in Kasilof.
On the Tuesdays the borough assembly meets, residents can likely hear Pierce speak his piece on whatever issue the assembly might be addressing that evening on the radio or in person at the borough building in Soldotna.
One might also hear him on the radio the next morning, too, talking about it.
But those who follow borough politics have come to expect it from the man with a bushy grey mustache, camouflage print ball cap and booming voice.
Pierce said he feels obligated to do so. It is really just what he does.
“I mean you hear people complain all week long, all month long about the borough assembly,” he said, sitting at Rocky’s Café in Kasilof. “When you get there, there are maybe three or four people there. It is just like the voter turnout here, which is pathetic.”
The 62-year-old Pierce has devoted what time he can spare to standing up for what he refers to as “the people,” and their voice.
“If you are not going to represent the people, then get out of office,” he said, referring to no politician in particular. “We are the ones that put you there.”
But what some might not realize is that Pierce, who makes his living doing paint and body work on cars, is not all bark, as they say. In addition to serving as vice president of the Cohoe-Kasilof Community Council, Pierce spends much of his time helping political causes, helping organize functions and debates, and working to inform others of local news.
Most recently he was commended at a meeting by assembly member Linda Murphy for gathering a large number of signatures for the coastal zone management program initiative.
“He did a phenomenal job,” Murphy said. “I know he worked hard on that and put in many, many hours out in the cold.”
Murphy and Pierce have been known to exchange heated words at meetings, but that’s not to say Murphy doesn’t respect him, she said.
“We probably don’t agree on 99 percent of the items that come before the assembly, but I feel that George’s heart is always in the right place and he is speaking from his heart,” she said. “I don’t think he has a personal agenda when he comes in to speak. I do appreciate his opinion even though most of the time I don’t agree with it.”
Pierce said he harbors no ill-will toward the assembly, nor Murphy, despite the difference of opinion. He will often shoot the breeze with assembly members at the grocery store, he said, and even helped assembly member Sue McClure air up her tires on a recent chilly night after a meeting to make sure she made it home to Seward safely.
“I could be a lot nastier,” he said. “I mean there are a lot of people that come in (to the borough meetings) that are really nasty to the borough assembly. But, you know, they are human beings.
“You have your opinion and I have mine. That’s how I look at it.”
Murphy agreed people like Pierce are somewhat rare, specifically those who are equally active as they are outspoken.
“I think a lot of people who want to come in and complain about things aren’t going out and doing anything to try and change things,” she said. “They have complaints but they are not willing to put out the effort, except maybe to come to a meeting and complain. I don’t see that with George.”
Pierce wasn’t always so politically active. He and his wife, Jeanie, and daughter, Chance, moved north 23 years ago from Luna, New Mexico in hopes of owning a piece of land.
“We always thought about it, so we just sold everything and moved up here,” said Pierce, who was raised in Dayton, Ohio.
The issue that first got him involved in politics was aerial predator hunting measures.
“It was just wrong the way they were doing it,” he said. “That was the first thing I did that had to do with petitions.”
Strike up a long enough conversation with Pierce and he will likely talk about a variety of things he feels strongly about — the borough’s anadromous stream protection ordinance, the Kasilof River Special Use Area, the Kasilof dunes fence, state legislators, coastal zone management, budgets, Gov. Sean Parnell and a host of others.
He has collected hundreds of signatures for several issues, helped organize borough mayor debates and attends many, if not most, Kasilof public meetings, especially those concerning the Kasilof River. He’s also publicly offered to drive residents who don’t have transportation to the voting booth on election days.
But what keeps him motivated in his activism?
“Trying to get it changed,” he said quickly.
Recently, Pierce took issue with the borough seeking to appropriate $35,000 for outside legal counsel to help with litigation filed by Kahtnu Ventures, LLC. His comments on the issue are indicative of his feelings on many other issues, he said.
He contends the borough assembly brought the issue on themselves by “not doing the will of the people.”
“Why should we give you $35,000? You’ve got a lawyer sitting right there beside you, so use her,” he said. “You guys created this. If you would have listened to the people you would have went with our surgical center and that would have been it. But no, you fought us like you do with everything so you pay for it.”
Despite what some might consider on first impressions, Pierce doesn’t conform to strict political affiliations, he said.
“Republicans have good ideas and Democrats have good ideas,” he said. “Unfortunately the Republicans are kind of strange, they have some strange ideas. So I would say I cater to more Democratic ideas.”
He is currently considering a run at a seat on the borough assembly, but hasn’t made a decision either way.
“If I was a borough assembly member, before I went to any meeting that night and voted on anything, I would make an announcement on the radio Monday and say, ‘Here is what is going to be on here. If you want me to vote a certain way you need to tell me,’” he said. “If I am for this thing of ketchup and nobody wants it, well then we don’t get no ketchup.”
Pierce said he is well aware of his critics — those who might discount his views because he might be too vocal or represent a viewpoint some consider extreme.
“They are entitled to that,” he said. “It is plain to see that it doesn’t matter anyways because nothing ever changes it seems like. ... I mean look at how many times I have gone up there and complained about this, this, and this and it has never went my way with anything yet.”
It’s frustrating at times, but he’s willing to be frustrated, he said.
“I guess I’m kind of for the underdog, I guess,” he said.