Ross: Wide variety of experience can be used by city

Posted: Tuesday, September 30, 2003

Richard "Rick" Ross has worn many hats in the city of Kenai and has decided to try on one more that of council member.

The former city police chief and city manager is running for one of the two, three-year seats up for grabs.

"I have never in my life envisioned running for any office," he said.

However, watching the Kenai City Council deal with tough financial situations last year prompted Ross to run so he could lend his experience working in both the public and private sectors to the council.

"I thought maybe I could be of assistance," he said. "I think I know the community very well. ... I think it gives me some of the experience, some of the knowledge needed to be of assistance and I'm willing to do it."

Ross, 56, has lived in Kenai with his wife, Gayle, for the last 30 years. They raised two sons who still live in the area.

He has been involved with a host of local charities and organizations. Currently he is a member of the Kenai Rotary Club, the Central Peninsula General Hospital Strategic Planning Committee and FBI National Academy Associates.

Ross's main interest is the city's economy.

He said last fiscal year the council had to deal with several financially threatening situations quickly, like the announcement of Big Kmart closing, and the cuts in state and federal revenues.

"I think what the council did last year is say 'How do we protect our core services, not that the others aren't important, and cut back in areas that have minimal impact.' And they tried to do it."

Ross noted that trying to set budget priorities is always a controversial process, noting the flack the council has taken for some of its budget-cutting measures, like outsourcing the management of the Kenai Recreation Center and cutting the library's hours and book budget.

"On the council you've got a nine-inch pie plate but you can't build a 12-inch pie in it," he said. "You have to look at the whole pie plate."

However, the city's financial status has improved since budget time last year, with Home Depot announcing its arrival and the city receiving one-time state and federal fund allocations.

As it stands now, Ross said he thinks the city can maintain its current services, keep from increasing taxes and possibly even add back some budget items that were cut, like the dust control program and some facility maintenance, if capital projects are put on hold.

Though it will be a challenge for the city to live within its means, Ross said it can be done now as it has in the past.

"We've had these cycles before," he said. "... I think it's something where if we have a little patience and willingness to work with it we'll get through it again."

If elected, Ross also would like to push the council to become more engaged with the issues of natural gas supply and the long-term financial aspects of local industry, fighting for more funding for the school district and getting the state's safe communities funding to municipalities restored.

Ross thinks his years of experience working in the city could come in handy in achieving these goals.

"I don't look at it as a stepping stone," he said.

"I just see some rocky road ahead and think maybe I can be of assistance in smoothing it out a little bit."



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