Four seats on the Kenai Peninsula Borough assembly will be up for grabs on Tuesday.
A total of seven candidates have thrown their hats in the ring for seats in District 1-Kalifornsky, District 2-Kenai, District 6-East Peninsula and District 9-South Peninsula. Seats are for one, three-year term, except for the Kenai district, which is a two-year seat.
Hal Smalley has served on the assembly since 2008, served as a state representative from 1999 to 2001 and is a former Kenai City Council member and retired educator.
Smalley said he is interested in citizen involvement and getting out and listening to resident concerns in Kenai and other communities across the borough. He said he hopes to keep an eye on school funding, service areas, roads and solid waste if re-elected.
Smalley thinks the assembly has done a good job keeping an eye on the budget and working with borough administration and kept the mill rate down, he said.
“Making sure that those budget requests go through and yet we keep good hands on that budget document so it is not growing unproportionally,” he said.
He said the assembly could do a better job communicating with the public about what matters it is addressing. He said he would also like to help guide the assembly through questions surrounding the anadromous streams ordinance.
“There is the thought by some that the borough has taken their property and this is an unfair taking and so on,” he said. “The truth to the matter is that the anadromous streams ordinance has not been enacted on the east side of Cook Inlet … and even now that’s indefinitely postponed until the task force looks at the ordinance, makes recommendations to the mayor’s office and the mayor will have recommendations back to the assembly before anything happens in regards to the anadromous streams ordinance.”
Christine Hutchison is a 40-year resident of Alaska and a field operations assistant for Hilcorp. Hutchison said it is her first time running for public office and was spurred to run because she takes issue with candidates running unopposed.
Hutchison said there needs to be more people involved in the area’s governing bodies who are “willing to watch out” for the taxpayer and property owners.
She said she is also interested in increasing public notice of the assembly’s activities, specifically as it relates to the anadromous streams ordinance.
“They call it meaningful notice, I think it is inadequate notice is what it is,” she said. “That’s one of the things that takes away from transparency in the assembly. The taxpayers need to be more aware of this. I’m not exactly sure what the measures are that get people actively involved, but they need to have the information so they can make an informed decision as to what they are going to support or not. Some of that stuff isn’t happening from the assembly.”
She said she would advocate for the assembly to repeal and start over on the anadromous streams ordinance. Furthermore, she said the assembly and borough budget should be revenue and personnel neutral.
“There are things happening that we don’t necessarily need, but yet it has come to the point where it seems like the only thing legislators do is bring more ordinances,” she said. “Why don’t we take some of it away?”
Kelly Wolf served as a state representative from 2003 to 2005 and has held a seat on the Kenai and Soldotna Fish and Game Advisory Committee. He is a program coordinator for the Youth Restoration Corps, a contractor and carpenter.
Wolf said he has become concerned as he has watched the area’s economic opportunities “dwindle.”
“The concern of our three-legged stool that we have — oil and gas, tourism and commercial fishing — well we’ve got two legs and if you look around the nation possibly all three legs that are being kicked,” he said.
Wolf said his two years in the state legislature were his “PhD in PolySci.”
“I look at running for public office, whether it be in the legislature or the borough assembly, as a job and the people are my boss and they have the right to fire me,” he said. “It is a job and I take it very seriously.”
He is also concerned about the borough government “trying to grow itself,” he said.
An example of that is the anadromous stream ordinance, he said, which “grows government without accomplishing anything.” He would seek to overturn the ordinance because it was “ill-conceived” and the borough does not have the manpower to enforce it, he said.
“We have the Kenai Peninsula Borough creating ordinances to protect riparian habitat along streams and lakes on the Peninsula and they can not and have not through the Kenai River Center been able to manage the ordinance they have for the Kenai (River),” he said.
He said he thinks civic leaders need to step up and lead the area’s youth, especially in the face of the area’s high school drop out rate and suicide rate.
“The borough assembly is an opportunity to serve my community that has been good to my family, a good place for me to raise my four children and I want it to be good for other people that want to come here, live here and start families and want it to be good for the kids that I have worked with over the past 16 years to stay here and raise their families,” Wolf said.
Michael Winegarden is a Realtor and owner of the Floor Center. He has served with the Kenai Peninsula Builders Association and currently serves with the Kenai Peninsula Realtors Association.
Winegarden said he was just looking to give back to the community “do my part and move forward with helping out.”
“There is absolutely nothing that I am specifically focused on because I know that when it comes to people that are in to politics, they have all kinds of levels about how they feel about this and that,” he said. “Even though I am a Republican, I have to say that I am not set with what my party has to do, or what this group has to do or what they say.”
Winegarden said he would rather sit and listen to resident comments rather instead of come into the job with preconceived notions. Even though Winegarden has never run for public office before, he said he was spurred by a sense of duty.
“You ever get to that point where you feel like you’ve hit a road block and that’s where you are and who you are?” he said. “Sometimes you get to that point and you just kind of feel that and I’ve felt that as my life goes on and what I have done for this community … has kind of stagnated. I just feel I could do more and I could be more.”
Winegarden said he is better than his competition because of his business experience and because he has an average person’s perspective.
“Because I’m not politically-minded and I haven’t been in office before, I think that I have a better view of how the general public sees it,” he said. “I’m a businessman, I’ve been a businessman on the Peninsula forever. Owning your own business and going out and seeking better things for yourself and your family and your friends kind of gives you that realm of what you’d like to do instead of being a politician, where (you say), ‘Oh, we are going to do this, this and this because that’s how I see it today.’”
Mako Haggerty has served on the assembly for three years. Haggerty is a commercial fisherman, salmon tender and water taxi operator.
Haggerty said serving on the assembly has a steep learning curve, but he said he feels he is learning more and more along the way.
“I believe that government is there to serve the people and not the other way around and I’m going to work hard to make sure that government serves the interest of the people in my district and the Peninsula as a whole,” Haggerty said.
He said his business gives him a unique working knowledge of the area and he shares many of the beliefs common to his area.
“I feel like I am in a unique position to represent the communities across Kachemak Bay because of my business,” he said, speaking about his water taxi business. “I get a lot of exposure to issues that are particular to Seldovia, Nanwalek and Port Graham and I have enjoyed my exposure to those communities.”
Haggerty said he is concerned about a number of issues facing the assembly, including the anadromous streams ordinance.
“I know we need to make some changes to the ordinance and I want to be around for that,” he said.
He said he is also interested in the future of solid waste on the Peninsula and how to deal with it.
“Especially down here in our area because we are going to be shipping our solid waste up to the Central Peninsula Landfill and I just want to reduce the amount of waste we ship up there,” he said.
Jesse Clutts is the manager and owner of the Anchor River Inn. He has served on the Anchor Point Advisory Planning commission, currently sits on the Economic Development District board and has served as president of the Anchor Point Chamber of Commerce.
Clutts said he ran for borough assembly three years ago against Haggerty. It would be Clutts’ first time serving the public if elected, but he felt it was important to give voters a choice.
He said he wants to advocate for small government with a less involved approach to management.
“I don’t want to see it grow and expand into different areas like the environmental protections,” he said. “Let’s leave that to the state and the feds. They do enough of that already; we don’t need to be taking on those roles.”
Moreover, he said he is concerned about the anadromous streams ordinance and why the borough is using a “one size fits all approach.” Clutts has also heard from residents concern about their property assessments, specifically when they jump.
“I think there is a way that we can offer some credits at the borough level that would allow people to ease into those higher evaluations rather than having it hit them all at once,” he said.
He said he wanted the borough to get back to focusing on the basics.
“I want the borough to focus on doing the schools,” Clutts said. “I want to focus on the solid waste management — those are the two big parts of the borough, everything else is pretty much run by service areas, which I believe should be given the authority and ability to manage themselves more even more than they do now.”
Sue McClure is running unopposed for the East Peninsula seat she has held since 2009. McClure is a retired chemistry and science teacher and has served on the Seward Planning and Zoning Commission, and the Kenai Peninsula Borough Planning Commission.
McClure said not much will change after the election — she plans to keep as busy with the job as she has been.
“Each year you get a little more proficient in the knowledge you gain as you go along,” she said. “So I think that I will continue to do what I do and do it better.”
She said there is nothing specific she would like to focus on during her second term, but is interested in resolving conflicts surrounding the anadromous streams ordinance and keeping the budget on track.
“Keep things on an even keel and not spend too much money,” she said. “I think we are on a good path that way.”
She said she also seeks to be open to resident input and accountable.
“I’m just pleased that people have the confidence that they want me in again,” she said. “It is a very nice position to be in to just be able to continue along without having to worry about campaigning.”
Brian Smith can be reached at email@example.com.