Until he was elected to a one-year term last fall, it had been 20 years since assembly member John C. Davis of Kenai had sat on the Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly.
A lot's changed since he served between 1970 and 1982, he said recently.
"This first year was a real learning experience," he said, admitting he had "floundered somewhat" while getting familiar with borough projects and programs.
"I was amazed to find out how large and complicated the borough is since I left (office) 20 years ago," he said.
"Now I've got a good footing and want to put in three more years."
Davis is seeking re-election to a three-year term and is being challenged by Kenai resident Dan Chay.
Davis said the borough was one of the most efficient in the state. But he has some philosophical differences with some policies.
"I have fundamental problems with carrying a multimillion dollar surplus in savings," he said, referring to the borough's fund balance.
According to Craig Chapman, acting finance director, the projected fund balance for the end of fiscal year 2003, which ended in July, was around $23 million. Final year-end audit figures are not yet available.
The role of government and its impact on citizens should be limited, he said.
"Since 1964, when the borough received the authority to take your money by force (taxing powers), it's always been my concern ... that it take the minimum," he said.
He applauded the low 6.5 mill property tax levy, down from 8.3 only a few years ago, but said he thought it could be lower still considering the size of the surplus, he said.
Davis said he wanted to see borough land put into private hands faster than the current pace.
"The best thing for borough land is to be on the tax rolls," he said. "A lot of borough land needs to be disposed of. The administration wants to do that. The assembly has bucked them in the past."
Other issues that need to be addressed, he said, include solid waste management and roads.
On the latter, he noted the ongoing transportation study due for completion this fall. He said his mind is open and he will be interested in public input regarding transportation.
He also said the economy was the borough's single biggest problem, and finding solutions will be complicated while the state continues to hurt because of reduce oil and gas revenues.
"There is not a whole lot we can do on it, but I hope it is really healthy in three years," he said.
He pointed to some positive signs, including a new platform in Cook Inlet, the new gas pipeline recently installed between Kenai and Ninilchik, and bright spots in the stalled fishing industry, such as Kenai Wild salmon branding project. Tourism, too, continues to grow, he said.
Another sign of relative economic health is the fact that the borough can afford to fund education to the maximum allowed by federal and state law.
"We couldn't give more if we wanted to," he said.
Davis, 62, has lived on the Kenai Peninsula for 36 years. He owns three businesses, including KSRM Inc., the Soldotna Business Plaza Inc., and an air taxi service called Lake Country Air Inc. He is married to Mary Jo Davis and has seven children.
He served on the Kenai Penin-sula Borough Assembly from 1972 to 1982 and was assembly president in 1982. He is a member of the Alaska Broadcasters Association, a board member of the Kenai Cham-ber of Commerce as well as the Soldotna Chamber of Commerce.
He is a member of the Soldotna Rotary, Safari Club International and the National Rifle Association.
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