Bannock throws hat in ring

Posted: Thursday, June 14, 2001

It looks like there will be a race for the office of mayor this year in Kenai.

After running unopposed three years ago, Kenai Mayor John Williams is facing a challenge now by one of his council members -- Duane Bannock.

Surrounded by his parents and wife, Bannock announced his intentions at the Kenai Chamber of Commerce luncheon at the Old Town Village Restaurant Wednesday.

"It excites me from the bottom of my toes to the top of my head -- which some of you might not think is very far -- to publicly announce the next level campaign," Bannock said.

He said there will be a campaign kickoff at the office of his place of business, Kenai Chrysler Center, tonight at 6 p.m.

After the luncheon Wednesday, his boss, Bob Favretto, said Bannock has been thinking about running for some time.

"I'm glad we finally got him to run," he said.

Bannock said he's spoken to the current mayor, and it's his opinion the mayor will seek re-election.

"I discouraged him as much as I could not to run," Bannock said. "I'd like it a lot more if he didn't run, to be brutally honest."

Williams said he welcomes the competition.

"This will give the citizens of the city of Kenai the chance to grade me. They haven't done that in a while because I've had no competition," Williams said from his office Wednesday afternoon. "If we put together a legitimate mayoral race of this nature, we'll see if the citizens agree with the direction I'm running in."

Without coming right out and saying he's running, the mayor added, "I think it's safe to say that if Mr. Bannock wants my position, he'll have to work for it. I'm not going to give it to him."

Bannock agreed the race will not be easy.

"It will be a race, and he'll work very hard, and I'll work very hard," Bannock said. "And it might not just be a two-person race."

Bannock admitted he's heard the rumors fellow council member Jim Bookey may run, too. Council member Linda Swarner's name has come up as well.

Swarner confirmed Wednesday afternoon that she is considering a run.

"I wish (Duane) luck (and) his campaign well," she said.

Bookey was unavailable for comment.

"Number one, I would welcome two or more people running, because the more people run, the more interest there is and the more people turn out to vote," Bannock said. "It's time to put an end to the pathetic turnout."

Three of the last four years, including the last mayoral election in 1998, have seen 15 percent turnout. In 1999, when eight people ran for four seats, voter turn out was still only 27 percent.

Bannock said he's running for mayor now because he says the time is right.

"First, I really want to be mayor. I've wanted to be for six years," he said. "It's a matter of timing. It works with my employer, it works with my family, and there's a tremendous amount of change for the good taking place, and I want to ride that wave.

"There are no dark clouds on the horizon, and there would be nothing worse than a rookie mayor during tough times. Things have never been better in Kenai than now."

Bannock was first elected to the Kenai City Council in 1993, after being defeated in 1988 as a 24-year old. If elected mayor, Bannock would be the city's youngest at 37.

Comparing himself to Williams, who was first elected mayor in 1986, Bannock said they have a tremendous number of things in common, but have a few basic philosophical differences.

"The mayor has gone on the record as saying people are not paying enough," Bannock said. "I think we're spending too much.

"I want to make sure we get the most bang for our buck and not raise rates, sales tax or property tax."

Bannock called Williams' pet project, the bluff erosion sea wall, an "absolutely fantastic project," but expressed reservation over finding money to pay for it and sustain it.

He said he felt the same way six years ago when the Challenger Learning Center idea was floated before the council.

He said he does not support the idea of the city giving incentives to private business to come to town to compete with established companies, specifically a hotel and convention center.

"I think we could use a convention center, but it doesn't need to be a $5 million one," he said.

Bannock said his campaign would spend "a lot" of money

Kenai attorney Rick Baldwin has been named his campaign steering committee chair.

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