Murphy takes District 4 seat: Former clerk to join assembly; Prop 2 fails

Posted: Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Linda Murphy will replace Pete Sprague as Soldotna's Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly representative after capturing 75 percent of the vote to defeat J.R. Myers in Tuesday's election.

"I was fairly confident, but you never know until the polls close," Murphy said. "I'm happy. I'm looking forward to working on the assembly."

Myers said he was disappointed, but he will continue to be an involved citizen.

"The voters have spoken, and they have made their choice so I have to go with that," Myers said.

In unopposed races, Brent Johnson captured Kasilof's seat with 96 percent of the vote, while Raymond Tauriainen won Nikiski's spot with 97 percent of the vote.

"I think that I'm ready, and I think it will be a lot of work," said Johnson, who said he was chopping wood instead of watching the results trickle in. Tauriainen said he is "looking forward to starting my tenure on the assembly."

On ballot initiatives, 63 percent of the voters approved proposition 1, which allows the borough to borrow up to $17 million in general obligation bonds to pay for repairs to area schools' roofs. On proposition 2, 73 percent of the voters opted not to move forward with hiring a borough manager.

Charlie Pierce, Sterling's representative, moved to put the borough manager concept to the voters after questioning the current administration's ability to handle the borough's day-to-day business.

Pierce said he was more disheartened by low voter turnout -- 22 percent of registered voters cast ballots -- than Tuesday night's Proposition 2 decision.

"It answered the question that we wanted to get answered. We should put that issue to rest and next time folks want to bring concerns about how the business is run or decisions getting made, maybe we can revisit the idea in the future. But for now it's clear," Pierce said. "For now we'll have a popular mayor and we'll do the best we can with that."

While Borough Mayor Dave Carey has spoken against the manager/weakened mayor concept, in April he suggested putting the issue on the 2010 ballot.

Tuesday night's borough election replaced one third of the nine assembly members. Incumbents Sprague, Gary Superman (Nikiski) and Paul Fischer (Kasilof) were term-limited out of office.

With Sprague's departure, the new body will vote on the next assembly president. The new members will take their seats on Oct. 26.

The race for the Soldotna seat was far from contentious. During a forum, both candidates agreed on all major issues, including both propositions -- they supported proposition 1 and opposed proposition 2.

The candidates differed in their connection to the current system. While Myers called himself an "agent of change" who views public service as a necessary sacrifice, Murphy spent eight years working as the borough clerk and believes that job provides her the skills needed to serve on the assembly.

Voters said Murphy's experience set her apart.

"The borough assembly is not a good place to be a learner. I think it's a good place to know what you're doing," Alan Humphries said. Humphries also voted against proposition 2.

"I think the system we have is working. I think it's worked well for these many years, and I personally am in favor of Mayor Carey," Humphries said. "Mayor Carey, I think, has done a great job and the mayors that we've had have done a great job, so I don't see a need to change."

Pam Hansen also voted against the manager concept.

"We've had a mayor system for a long time and it does have its problems but we're more able, I think, to get rid of him if we don't like him," Hansen said. "It's easier to go in there face-to-face and say, 'why are you doing this?' A manger, I think, leaves too much up to the assembly, and they have enough power as it is."

Hansen supported Murphy in the race for the Soldotna assembly seat.

"I felt she was more in line with the way I think," Hansen said. "She's probably more conservative and more local things were important."

While Murphy said she would not come into the assembly with a specific agenda, Myers said he would kick-start a dialogue about renewable energy and a tri-borough transportation system.

Neither Johnson nor Tauriainen have any specific legislation that they intend to introduce.

Andrew Waite can be reached at andrew.waite@peninsulaclarion.com.

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