Bluff buff

Kenai's new mayor enlists old for D.C. assistance

Posted: Monday, January 24, 2005

It appears former Kenai Mayor John Williams won't be slipping entirely away from the spotlight of city government.

At Wednesday's regular meeting of the Kenai City Council, Kenai Mayor Pat Porter requested that Williams join her for a March trip to Washington, D.C., as a special adviser.

Porter said she'll be speaking with members of Alaska's congressional delegation, trying to garner support for Kenai's proposed bluff erosion control project.

Because Williams — who served as mayor for 17 years before deciding not to run for re-election last year — has extensive knowledge of both Washington politics and the project, Porter said she thought it would be a good idea to have the former mayor along to help out on her first official trip to the nation's capital.

"I just would like to have his assistance with dealing with our congressional delegation," Porter said.

Porter asked the council for its approval of her plan, which will include paying for the former mayor's airfare, hotel and provide for a $300-per-day fee for the three or four day-long trip.

After a brief discussion with Kenai Finance Director Larry Semmens about where in the city's budget the money would come from, council members said they are comfortable with the plan.

"I think it's probably a good idea," council member Blaine Gilman said.

Porter stressed that Williams' knowledge of the bluff project is such that he's too valuable of a resource to lose.

"Mayor Williams has been with this project since its inception," she said.

In addition, she said Williams's knowledge of the District of Columbia itself will help her get acquainted with the area — a sentiment council member Cliff Massie said he fully understood.

"I went to Washington, D.C., once, and I wouldn't go back without a guide," Massie said.

On Th-ursday, Williams said he be-lieves he can lend valuable support to Kenai's ongoing effort to shore up its bluff, which is eroding at the mouth of the Kenai River at a rate of approximately 3 feet per year.

"I've had 25 years of history with the project," he said.

He said he thinks he can help Porter "learn the ropes" of Washington politics and get a handle on how business is done inside the Beltway.

"It will be nice to have someone there to introduce her to everybody and make sure she gets off on the right track," he said.

Semmens said the best way to pay for the trip would be to write up a purchase order for professional services and approve it through normal channels. How much money the city will spend for Williams is not yet known. However, with the $300 daily stipend, as well as hotel and airfare, council member Linda Swarner said it's possible the purchase order could exceed $2,500 — which would mean it would have to be approved by a vote of the council.

No council member objected to the plan, and the city administration will now work out the details of the trip.

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