Eldridge: Economic development tops his priority list

Posted: Tuesday, September 30, 2003

Barry Eldridge thinks Kenai is a great community with a lot to offer and wants other people, and especially businesses interested in moving to the city, to think that as well.

"We have a beautiful community, wonderful airport, great facilities, transportation access all kinds of great things, but we need to get that word out," he said.

Eldridge, 67, is running for one of the two, three-year seats up for election. He has made unsuccessful bids for council seats in past elections and is trying again this year.

Eldridge has been a Kenai resident for the past 18 years. He and his wife, Marta, have three children, two of whom still live in the Kenai area. He has a master's degree in management, had a long career as a Coast Guard commanding officer and still does some boat captaining. He is the current vice chair and past chair of the Kenai Harbor Commission, a member of the Kenai Planning and Zoning Commission, a member and past president of the Kenai Rotary Club, a member of the Kenai Chamber of Commerce and of the Cook Inlet Regional Citizens Advisory Council.

These positions have given him management experience and knowledge of how the city operates, which he said he would bring to the council if elected. He said he also would bring a desire for better communication and cohesiveness to the council.

"I would like to see (the council) work together a little more," he said. "It would be good if they could all come to a consensus and got behind the overall goals of the city."

Economic development tops the list of things Eldridge would like to work toward if elected. He said he would like to see an advisory committee formed to work with the city's economic development director to encourage business development.

"We really need some changes in the economy and some way of enticing new retail business and light industry into the city of Kenai," he said.

Eldridge also would like to see more business development at the Kenai Municipal Airport and along the river front, particularly with the empty canneries.

Other issues of interest to him are completing the Kenai Coastal Trail and bluff stabilization project, completing the Bridge Access Road portion of the Unity Trail, establishing more hiking and biking trails in the city, getting the Kenai Recreation Center back open and promoting what the city has to offer.

As for the state of the city's finances, Eldridge said things are looking better now than they did last year, but more work should be done. He said the council largely did a good job cutting the budget, but thinks it should look more closely at the possibility of eliminating city positions that have been added in recent years.

"(We need to) see if they're still necessary and not just nice to have around," he said.

Eldridge also said he would like to see the 1.5 mill rate increase the council approved for this fiscal year eliminated. In order to make up this revenue, he suggests annexation.

"I think the city should investigate expanding its boundaries," he said. "There are a lot of people on the fringes of the city that benefit from what goes on in the city. There's a lot of potential tax revenue increases we could see by expanding the boundaries."

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