Borough mayor race heating up

Gary Superman throws hat in ring against John Torgerson, John Williams

Posted: Sunday, March 27, 2005

The list of those who want to run for the office of Kenai Peninsula Borough mayor this October has grown to three.

Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly President Gary Superman filed a letter of intent Wednesday; former state senator and assembly member John Torgerson of Kasilof filed his letter March 15; and former Kenai Mayor John Williams filed his Nov. 11.

Superman said he plans to focus heavily on economic development while dealing with borough budget problems.

"Certainly the budget problems are some major borough issues. I'll be trying to come to a solution this year, which could be painful for some folks. I'd like to see us continue economic development. People need to step back and look to the future," he said.

Superman said there is no lacking of developers who could come to the area.

"We've got plenty of players out there. The borough needs to be aggressively active to facilitate economic development. People interested in developing need to have a central location where they can come to and to be indoctrinated. If we drop the ball on that, we're not looking to the future," he said.

"Even though we're down in a trough, I don't expect that to continue too far into the future."

Superman is confident his experience in politics will give voters a frame of reference as they consider his candidacy. He served on the borough assembly from 1989 to 1992 and returned in 2001.

"That certainly gives me a historic background. I've been through the budget process many, many times," he said.

He said he does not plan to play party politics in the race.

"With age comes wisdom — you come to grasp that you've got to work with all people," he said. "I'm intimate with politics. I feel like I've got a real good shot at it."

Torgerson said his platform, though still in the planning stages, likely will be that for which he has traditionally stood.

"It will be education, fundamentally. I'll continue to work for aquaculture and economic development to boost it up," he said. "I've done a ton of work in oil and gas and hatcheries.

If elected, Torgerson said he would welcome the aid of his colleagues and ex-colleagues in the Legislature as he focuses on local issues.

"I'm not a guy you've got to look for. Chances are I'm sitting in the bleachers next to you. I've lived in Alaska since 1950, so I know what's going on around here. I'm just a good old home boy," he said.

Torgerson said his experience serving eight years in the Alaska Senate should prove his worth to the office. He said he would be a strong candidate due to his expertise and the need for leadership in the borough.

Torgerson said he has been planning to run for the mayor's office for "quite some time now."

Serving six terms as the Kenai mayor, Williams said he has planned to run for the position for at least 10 years, waiting for the right time.

Williams said the borough needs a guide with some control to take the Kenai Peninsula through tough times. Among his top priorities is to facilitate a reorganization of priorities to ensure no department's responsibilities overlap.

"We may find we need to merge or consolidate some departments," he said. "There's not enough discussion about program cuts."

The budget woes of the borough assembly are of concern, too.

"There is a dangerously low reserve in the budget ... . As far as finance, we need to examine tax exemptions for all the special interests in light of the fact that taxes are the tools government uses to do what it does," he said.

With regard to economic development, Williams said the borough has some great opportunities on the horizon.

"There are possibilities with the Pebble Mine where we could be directly involved. We have shipping — port and harbor capabilities. And if they build the power plant on this side, it gives opportunities for new developments down the line," he said. "We should also be considering broadband Internet. Without it, we're out of the loop."

Williams said he has the background in politics.

"I'm quite familiar with how everything works, and I'll carry that over. It's not as though we have a stranger coming into office. I'm well-known and I've won six successive elections," he said.

The borough election is set for Oct. 4.

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