Kenai race draws familiar faces

Posted: Monday, September 19, 2005

Editor's note: The following is the second in a series of stories focusing on the upcoming municipal elections Oct. 4. Candidate columns and answers to a Clarion questionnaire can be found on pages A-4 and A-5 in today's paper. Tuesday's coverage will focus on candidates for the Soldotna City Council and mayor.

None of the four people running for the two, 3-year seats up for grabs on the Kenai City Council are strangers to the political process.

Two of the four — Linda Swarner and Jim Butler — are incumbents, while the other two — John "Ozzie" Osborne and Mike Boyle — have either served on the council (Osborne in 2003) or made previous runs at the office (Boyle fell 103 votes shy of winning a seat in 2004).

Swarner has served on the council for 18 years and said she still has the enthusiasm that first drew her to elected office.

"I still love my job as a council person," Swarner said.

She said there are a number of issues she wants to see the council continue to work on if she's elected to another term.

"There are still some projects left that we haven't quite completed that I'd like to finish," she said, mentioning the search for a new Kenai city manager and a potential library expansion as two of her top priorities.

Butler was appointed to his seat when Mayor Pat Porter vacated it after winning the city's top elected job last year. He said he's enjoyed his time on the council and believes having a year under his belt puts him in an even better position to serve.

"I've had a year of experience and I think I'm now more prepared to contribute to the council," he said.

Butler said key issues he would like to see addressed within the city include infrastructure improvements, continued water and sewer quality work and economic development. As a small business owner, he said he would particularly like to see the city work on economic development.

"I think the city needs to work with the chamber or some of the other business-type groups and do an inventory and assessment of why there seems to be sort of a lull in economic activity," he said.

Osborne, too, mentioned economic concerns as one reason he'd like to have another go-around on the council.

"The city needs to figure out some way to attract businesses to town," he said.

Osborne pointed out that residents from Nikiski to Kenai end up traveling to Soldotna to do much of their retail shopping, a situation he'd like to see changed.

"There must be something wrong with the way the city treats businesses, because it seems like everyone goes to Soldotna," he said.

Osborne also mentioned that he'd like to see the council hold onto some of its land, including several large parcels being considered for sale to the Conservation Fund.

"I'd like to see the city keep its property rather than getting rid of it," he said.

As for Boyle, he said he believes his biggest strength is his willingness to listen to people and be understanding of various points of view. He said he'll give Kenai residents a good representative who will voice their concerns at the city level.

"I think there are a lot of people out there who are saying things that don't get heard," he said. "I won't always agree with someone, but I'll always listen."

Boyle said his biggest concern with how the city is currently run has to do with the dipnet fishery. He said he believes the fishery is in danger of getting too big, too fast and that not enough planning has gone into how the Kenai beach is managed in July.

"There's indications that it's kind of busting at the seams," he said. "It's happened so fast, and now we're going, 'What do we do?'"

Boyle said he'd like to see more discussion go into planning at the council level. He said he doesn't have all the answers himself, but noted that his ability to listen to people could serve the council well during planning discussions.

"One of my strengths is I am able to find people who have good answers," he said.

All four candidates will be listed on the ballot together, and the top two vote-getters for the two, three-year open seats will be elected. The election is Oct. 4.

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