When I first walked in the room I was immediately intimidated. I thought there had to be a mistake. I walked into the Clerk’s Office to confirm that the interviews for the vacant assembly seat were indeed in that room. The room with the assembly members sitting in a court room style semi-circle and the other half of the room filled with spectators. They confirmed I was in the right place and in an hour I was about to be interviewed, along with the 7 other applicants: David Wartinbee, Brent Hibbert, Dan Castimore, Derrick Medina, Rock Koch, Dick Peck, and Matthew Wilson.
You might suppose that I would be writing to explain how I had suffered an injustice, and that I should have been chosen to fill the vacant seat, but I am instead writing as a constituent and I would like to explain how the process to fill the vacancy was an injustice to all the residents of that district. I am new to politics and I was, by no means, the most qualified candidate. I wanted to get involved and thought I would try my hand at it.
It was clear after the first candidate answered his first question, however, that I was grossly overestimating myself. Dan Castimore, was eloquent, educated about the issues, and was currently serving on the school board. He actually stumped the assembly members when he looked to them to confirm that the Borough “had platting authority.” Dick Peck was an impassioned candidate looking to serve his community. He was well educated on current issues that the borough is facing and identified specific areas that he would like to address to help keep the budget balanced. David Wartinbee, a professor of Biology at KPC, was well spoken and expressed his diligence in research and making well informed decisions. He expressed his commitment to represent the constituents’ needs and to represent all voters. Matthew Wilson spoke on his experience talking to the many residents in the district and having the unique opportunity, through the company he works for, to hear, firsthand, the voters’ needs. Rick Koch was well aware of the issues as well, having served as the Kenai City Manager and spoke about the continued, “tightening of the belt” that the borough needed.
After hearing each persons’ explanation on how they would best serve the district and lamenting about my own inept answers to their broad, yet simple questions (I think at one point my response was just, “I love taxes”), I knew they had some strong candidates and some not-so-strong candidates, myself included in that latter group. In particular, though, Brent Hibbert, who answered the question, “How do you feel about taxation, education and zoning?” with an “I don’t know” and who simply repeated “I’m a conservative” a couple of times throughout his interview, made me relieved that we had such great candidates vying for the opportunity to serve this community.
You can imagine my surprise when an hour later Mr. Hibbert was selected to fill the District 1 Assembly Seat. Please don’t misinterpret my terse and unsympathetic position with distaste for Mr. Hibbert. I have never met him, but I have heard a lot of great things about him and his business and I do understand that the way the interviews were held was an intimidating process that fell short of truly assessing one’s ability to hold office, however, that was the process chosen to vet a new assembly member. I can only assume that rather than assessing the interviewee’s answers and political aptitude via questioning, they had selected him because of his excellent reputation and or positive personal encounters, and as such I feel as though the constituents of District 1 were failed. A process to fill a public office was clearly laid out, applicants prepared, interviewed and waited, only to find out their hard work and aptitude would not be what decided the fate of our district.
I feel I need to reiterate here that I was clearly not the choice for the position and I am glad I was not chosen, because there were far better candidates that clearly had more experience and political knowledge than I have. They were enthused, experienced and prepared to serve this community. I sincerely hope that what the assembly saw in Mr. Hibbert’s interview will become evident in the way he serves on the Assembly and that this process did not discourage the truly wonderful applicants that came forward to try and be a part of this community.