Change can be stormy, but as the city of Kenai prepares to transition to a new city manager it looks like nothing but smooth sailing ahead.
That says much about current City Manager Rick Ross, who told the Kenai City Council in December it needed to look in earnest for his replacement.
The council's search ended late last month when it selected Linda Snow, currently the city manager in Petersburg, to succeed Ross.
There's no doubt Ross, who is known for his even-handedness and levelheadedness, will be missed. Ross spent 22 years in the Kenai Police Department, most of those as chief. He came out of retirement to keep the city on a steady course as its manager, a position he's held for about the last five years.
Ross is a personable, no-nonsense kind of a guy who knows how to get things done. He also knows how to give others the tools and the room to get things done -- which means the city is running smoothly. From all accounts, morale among city workers is high and relations between city hall and the community are good.
That's great news for Snow, who is due to report to work July 16. Because of Ross' efforts, as well as those of all city employees and the Kenai City Council, Snow won't be facing any dark clouds when she assumes her new position.
The city of Kenai appears to be running like a well-oiled machine. Snow won't have to start major repair projects, because nothing is broken. She'll be able to spend time in learning and listening mode, which is always important to a successful transition.
That's not to say Snow will be able to coast. If that were the case, we doubt she would have applied for the job. She has a reputation as a dynamo; if there weren't things to do, she likely would not have been interested in returning to Kenai, where she first got the urge to get into municipal management.
Among the tangible challenges Snow faces are work on Kenai's comprehensive plan and bluff erosion work. Those are major projects on the horizon, projects that have the potential to remake the city. There also are some nitty-gritty things to be done, including maintenance work on aging city facilities and attention to the city's infrastructure.
We don't think it's an exaggeration to say Kenai is at a crossroads, and one of Snow's most important, but intangible, challenges may be helping Kenai redefine itself. The city once was identified almost completely with commercial fishing and oil. The economy, however, has changed, and it's fair to examine if Kenai is keeping up with those changes.
We applaud the council on its search and its selection for a new city manager. Snow appears to be a great match with the city. Once the director of the mental health center here, she left Kenai in 1980 to study public administration. She worked as the manager of the Kuskokwim River village of McGrath for 9 years, before moving to Petersburg, where she has been ever since.
Snow's knowledge of other parts of Alaska can only be a plus for the citizens of Kenai. She knows the state, she knows resource issues, she knows Alaskans.
Plus, she has a philosophy of involving citizens in the city's work. During an interview with the council, in answer to a question about how she balances the issues, Snow responded: "You have to involve as many people as possible. You have to find middle ground and not just hear from the extremes."
We couldn't agree more.
We look forward to Snow's arrival in Kenai. At the same time, we wish Rick Ross well as he undertakes a new chapter in his life. He has served Kenai well.
It's an exciting time to be in Kenai. We can't wait to see what happens.
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