Closing the door on 14 years of service on the Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly, Jack Brown of Nikiski has 7 hours and 59 minutes to shift gears
His resignation, as stated in an April 17 letter to Assembly President Tim Navarre, takes effect at 12:01 a.m. Wednesday. His new position with the borough's community and economic development division begins at 8 a.m.
"My first priority will be to start working on the Arctic Winter Games bid," Brown said. "The games are coming back to Alaska in 2006, and we have to put together a steering committee to start getting all our information together for our bid package."
Offering advice to his replacement, who will be selected by the assembly Tuesday evening, Brown said, "It's fine to have an independent philosophy and attitude, but that's only one vote. I learned a long time ago that you have to work with the assembly and the administration if you want to accomplish anything.
"I hope my replacement will be a hard worker and do the research it takes to make an informed decision," Brown said. "The Nikiski vote is critical because that one vote represents 40 to 50 percent of the assessed value of the whole borough, and there's a certain amount of pressure that goes along with that vote and the presentation of that vote."
Comparing this year with the past 14, Brown said, "This is probably the busiest year other than the several years around the Exxon Valdez oil spill. Look at all the issues we've dealt with this year -- the prison, incorporation of Nikiski and extension of the North Road. If Gov. (Tony) Knowles doesn't veto the prison, this is going to be the biggest year that the peninsula's ever had in terms of community and economic development. There's no year that's even close. It's a great year to go out on."
He likened his departure from elected office to a similar moment in baseball.
"It's just like the last year I played baseball in California. I hit a three-run homer. I'll always remember that. That's what it feels like now."
Five individuals have officially declared an interest in taking Brown's place at the plate: Gary Superman, James Wolverton, Joe Ross, Mark Powell and Ray Tauriainen.
Superman is originally from Springfield, Mass., and has lived on the peninsula and in District 3 since 1975. He is a general contractor and owns Woodfitters Construction. Superman previously served on the assembly from 1989 until 1992.
"I've pretty much stayed involved in Nikiski affairs and always been kind of an activist out here," said Superman, who had considered running for the District 3 seat in the October election. "I think I'm pretty well qualified for the job, and I'd like to do what I can inside the borough to try and improve the quality of life we have out here and work with the borough to do so."
Wolverton was born in Clarksburg, W.Va., and has lived in Alaska since 1956. He holds a University of Alaska Fairbanks bachelor's degree in secondary education and a master's in teaching. He served in the U.S. Army in Germany, has taught in the Alaska Bush and been a borough resident since July 1973. Wolverton moved into District 3 in 1984 and is a marketing specialist for KSRM Inc.
"I'm interested in giving some of my experience and background," said Wolverton, emphasizing a cooperative effort between the borough and Legisla-ture.
"The thing to do is to increase the budget for education. That's one end. Prisons are the other end. If we don't teach kids the basics -- reading, writing, math -- then we'll increase welfare rolls and prison populations. We can deal with it at one end or we can deal with it on the other."
Joe Ross, born in Longview, Wash., has been an Alaska resident for 19 years and moved into the District 3 area in 1982. He listed his occupation as a self-employed oil field worker, and is the owner of Alaska Roadrunner, a gravel and topsoil producer. He serves as a member at large on the borough's road service area board.
"I've always been interested in local politics," he said.
Of particular interest to him is the borough's current effort to locate gravel for the North Road extension.
"That strikes a raw nerve with me," Ross said. "They've been only looking in one direction. Recently they're looking at a couple of different ways of doing this, but they've had tunnel vision. At least Jack Brown has. It's something that needs to go out to bid."
Powell is originally from Wyoming and first moved to the peninsula in May 1983. He owns Alaska Salmon Purchasers and is a timber buyer for Husky Lumber Company. He also is vice president of the Kenai Peninsula Resource Management Coalition, an organization supporting the historical, traditional, cultural and spiritual uses of the fish and wildlife resources on the peninsula. Powell recently served on the five-member evaluation committee that reviewed and rated companies interested in planning and promoting the private prison project currently being explored by the borough.
"I'm involved in a lot of issues pertaining to the borough," Powell said. "I'm obviously very interested in commercial fishing issues and commercial fishing families of the Kenai Peninsula, and I think I could be a positive contributor to the borough."
Tauriainen could not be reached for comment. However, information provided on his declaration for candidacy stated he is a 24-year Alaska resident, originally from Detroit. He has been a peninsula and District 3 resident since June 1977 and listed his occupation as an electrician. Tauriainen holds a degree in accounting and has served as the Nikiski precinct committee person for the Republican Party since 1996.
Following selection by secret ballot of the assembly, the new District 3 representative will be sworn in to serve until the October general election.
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