Chenault looks for new cooperation between legislators, next governor

Posted: Sunday, July 21, 2002

Republican Rep. Mike Chenault is used to serving a large area of the peninsula, so he doesn't mind that his district just got a little bigger.

Chenault spoke Thursday to the North Peninsula Chamber of Commerce. He explained to the chamber that redrawn district lines now mean he'll represent residents from the northern tip of the peninsula to Kasilof -- basically, the entire northern half of the peninsula, excluding the cities of Kenai and Soldotna.

The new district is known as District 34.

Changes to Alaska's district boundaries made this year are the reason for the redrawn lines. Chenault said he'll now serve a primarily rural area if re-elected.

"It means a lot more miles to put on my vehicle. Basically it takes away the Kenai/K-Beach area," Chenault said. "That all depends on if I get re-elected, of course."

Chenault is being challenged for the seat by James R. Price, a Republican Moderate.

Chenault said he hopes a change atop the Alaska political mountain will usher in a new era of cooperation between legislators and the governor. He said under the Knowles administration, he never had any contact with the governor's office.

"I never talked to him in two years," he said. " I found it kinda odd that we were supposed to be working together, but we never talked. We think there should be some dialogue between the two groups."

When he was asked about who he would like to see sitting next to the governor in Juneau, Chenault was somewhat evasive.

"I've worked with Sen. (Robin) Taylor and Sen. (Loren) Leman, and I know Gail (Phillips). I could probably work with any of the three. As long as they're open minded, I'm willing to work with them," he said. Also, running for lieutenant governor as Republicans are Sarah Palin and Paul Wieler.

Chenault also talked about issues closer to Nikiski, especially the area's future. He said he's hopeful the area's industry will continue to grow, mentioning a proposed industrial park and the need to continue to seek out energy sources.

Chamber President Fred Miller told Chenault the industrial park idea is gaining momentum. Miller, who sits on the steering committee for the project, noted the committee has determined the plan has merit.

"The preliminary report said there was an interest" in the project, Miller said.

"I think it's a good idea that we need to look at," Chenault said.

He also talked about making sure a future gas pipeline includes at least a spur to the Kenai Peninsula. He told the chamber that the area's major businesses depend on the gas to survive.

"In order for those facilities to stay in business, they need a reasonably priced source of gas," he said.

Chenault said that listening to the people of his district, whether they live in Nikiski, Sterling or anywhere in between, will remain his number one priority if re-elected.

"The major job, I think, of a legislator is to take care of the constituents. We try to help 'em out with any problems they have," he said. "To me or you, (the problem) may not be important, but to the person being affected, it is a problem."

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