Assembly District 1, Chay: Consensus-reaching skills could aid assembly

Posted: Thursday, October 02, 2003

Asked what he'd like to see improved about the Kenai Peninsula Borough government, Assembly District 1 candidate Dan Chay of Kenai said he'd rather begin by focusing on what the borough is doing right.

Chay, 45, is challenging incumbent assembly member John Davis in the only one of three assembly races with more than one candidate.

"I think our borough employs some good, sincere and competent people who work with integrity," Chay said.

"It (the government) does a reasonably good job of providing a range of services, including contributing to the school system in a significant way, as well as to solid waste and road services. Those are all things we can be proud of."

He also noted what he called "valuable efforts" under way in planning, updating the transportation plan and reviewing the borough's comprehensive plan.

As for what can be done better, Chay said it is important for the business community that the borough is able to ensure a stable and predictable tax regime. He also said he would like to see improvements in leadership and how the borough engages with the community.

Chay is a mediator by training and trade and operates Horizon Mediation Services in Kenai along with his wife, Heidi. He said he thinks he can bring experience at reaching consensus to the assembly table.

But he noted that the assembly has a well-established deliberative process with rules of deference and historical relationships that work well, so he's not proposing anything akin to reinventing the wheel.

"I will be feeling my way for a while," he said. "I hope to invite small changes on the periphery."

Contentious issues, he said, can be discussed in respectful ways that are not personally hurtful. The idea, he added, is to be "hard on problems, not on one another."

Among the issues Chay said are important to him is the dependence of the borough on the oil and gas industry, the continued depletion of those resources and the impact that will have on local, state and national revenue streams and the public services they pay for.

"Oil and gas are finite assets," he said. "We can spend them once. I'm interested in, as part of the comprehensive plan process, looking for opportunities to raise issues and do some scenario planning so we can anticipate potential futures and what we can do most constructively to adapt."

In three years, Chay said he hopes the borough would be working toward an economy based on renewable resources, such as fishing, tourism and forestry.

In addition, he said he hoped the borough would be "well along the way to thinking about capturing the next wave of opportunities things not on the radar screen yet."

Chay has not served in political office before. He said he decided to seek public office not because of any particular dissatisfaction with the incumbent, but because he felt it was time to "step up and take a watch."

He said he feels connected to the area, having spent summer on the peninsula in the early 1960s at the family setnet site, and moving here permanently in 1967.

Chay has a bachelor's degree in history from Brown University, and also spent a year at Beijing Univer-sity and a year at the University of Hawaii.

He is a board member of the Center for Mediation and Commu-nity Dialogue, is a past president and Web master for the Alaska Dispute Settlement Association, and a member and past board member of the United Fishermen's Association. He has been a commercial fisher and a pilot.

Chay has two daughters in borough schools.

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