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Soldotna preps for new city manager

Posted: August 3, 2012 - 8:14am  |  Updated: August 3, 2012 - 8:40am

Mark Dixson won’t have far to move when he trades his current office in the Kenai Peninsula Borough building for his new one less than a block away at Soldotna City Hall. 

Over the next few months as the current city manager’s contract winds toward its Oct. 31 expiration date, Dixson will hear from department heads, the mayor and the city manager as they prepare for his transition into the position. 

While the contract details have yet to be hammered out and approved by the city council, Mayor Peter Micciche said he anticipated having something ready by the council’s Wednesday meeting. 

“He fit very well with the council, his answers proved that he is committed to what he does for a living, committed to the city,” Micciche said. “... He made it clear that he felt that the most important stakeholders were the folks on the street — our citizens.”

Larry Semmens, outgoing city manager, said he felt Soldotna was in great condition but that he’d be ready to work with the new manager to warn him of conflicts, new construction projects, grant requests and city initiatives. 

“When I came here, of course I lived in the community for 25 years before I arrived so I was fairly knowledgeable about the area,” he said. “But you have to familiarize yourself with the budget and the code and try to get that information and I’m wanting to provide him that.”

Dixson lives in Soldotna, which made him particularly appealing, Micciche said, because it’s nice to hire locally when filling a position. 

His close proximity has helped him get a jump start on the transition process.

“We’ve already met. I invited him to participate in the hiring of the police chief that is in process,” Semmens said. “That’s ... how we’re going to interact with each other during the next couple of months before he actually comes on the job.”

Dixson is currently the general services director for the Kenai Peninsula Borough, a position he has held since April 2011 when he moved from New York to Soldotna.

According to his resume, he was a county attorney for the City of Tioga, New York and a managing partner at Dixson Schumacher P.C. 

Micciche said Dixson’s procedural background was part of what made him so attractive as the administration looks to the future and develops the city. 

“We focused on sitting down over the last few years, getting our financial house in order, determining where we’re going in the future so we have now, a road map in our comprehensive plan,” he said. “We’ve started executing some of those expectations from the community so where we are is the next step. We need to have our code match our development plan. We need to decide where we’re going ... if we have room for expansion, if there’s any annexation on the table — just the longer term plan for Soldotna.” 

While Micciche said he’d be sad to see Semmens go he looked forward to seeing what Dixson could bring to the city. 

“Mr. Semmens led the city very professionally and he was very highly performing since he got here in 2008,” he said. “But that’s not to say that Mr. Dixson won’t end up filling gaps that Mr. Semmens didn’t have that are places the city needs to go.”

Editor's note: This article has been edited to correct a grammar error in the first paragraph.

Rashah McChesney can be reached at

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santini 08/04/12 - 01:29 pm
Soldotna Preps for New City Manager

Congratulations to Mr. Dixon on his selection to be the next city manager. He will have a tough act to follow with Larry Semmens. Mr. Semmens was successful because he forged a close relationship with his city council based team work and mutual respect. Gleaming resumes are not necessarily the sole winning ingredient. Especially helpful was that Mr. Semmons drew upon Mr. Micciche's vision and enthusiasm to do what was best for Soldotna. As Peter Drucker would say: good managers do things right while good leaders do the right things. That will be Mr. Dixon's challenge as he directs his administration, works with the council and listens to the voters.

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