Kenai council names Osborne to empty seat

Reaching consensus proves to be difficult

Posted: Friday, April 18, 2003

Persistence pays off. Just ask John "Ozzie" Osborne Sr.

Osborne has run unsuccessfully for a seat on the Kenai City Council in the last five elections. When past council member Duane Bannock resigned his seat in February to take a job as the director of the state Division of Motor Vehicles, Osborne again applied for the position.

On Wednesday, he was finally given a chance to help steer the city when the council appointed him to fill Bannock's vacated seat.

"I finally got up here where the candy is within reach," Osborne joked as he took his seat for the first time, referring to the dishes of goodies put out during council meetings.

According to the city charter, when a council seat becomes vacant in the middle of a term, the remaining council members can appoint a Kenai resident to fill the seat by a majority vote.

That person serves until the next election, then can choose to run for election to fill the remainder of the term. In this case, Osborne would run to serve the remaining two years of Bannock's three-year term.

Five Kenai residents applied for the council position -- Osborne, Carol Brenckle, Barry Eldridge, Blaine Gilman and Hal Smalley -- and council members had a difficult time choosing between them. During an interview session March 20, council members heard the candidates' positions on such issues as the city budget, taxes and economic development.

Council members made their first attempt to appoint one of the candidates at their April 2 meeting. After an hour of secret balloting, the voting deadlocked between Gilman and Brenckle, so the council decided to try again at its meeting this week.

Reaching a consensus again proved difficult Wednesday. This time voting was split between Smalley, Osborne and Gilman. After about eight votes, Gilman told the council he wanted to step out of the race.

"I want to withdraw my name," he said, adding he still plans to participate in future council meetings, but thought he might do more good giving his opinion as a citizen rather than as a council member.

With Gilman out of the running, voting deadlocked between Smalley and Osborne for one ballot. The council voted again and this time the tally showed Osborne with four votes, the majority needed for the appointment.

Council member Linda Swarner thanked all the candidates for their patience during the appointment period and remarked that it was a testament to their character and devotion to the city that they stuck through the process.

Soon after being appointed, Osborne was asked to attend an Economic Development District meeting in Seward today on behalf of the council and was assigned as council liaison to the Planning and Zoning Commission. Osborne has served as a commissioner on that board from 1982 to 1988 and from 2001 to the present.

Osborne, 62, has been a Kenai resident for more than two decades. He has six children and is married to Marilyn Wheeless; they have 21 grandchildren together. He works as a machine shop foreman at G & G Machine Shop.

This is Osborne's first time in public office.

During his council interview, Osborne said he is in favor of the 1.5 mill increase included in the city's fiscal year 2004 budget and he doesn't want the city's budget reserve to be any lower than it is now.

As for why he wanted to be on the council in the first place, especially when it's facing such difficult budget decisions, he said he wants to help the city grow again.

"I feel the council did the right thing in my appointment, and I hope to do a good job," he said.

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