Kenai council replaces 2 faces, keeps 1

Posted: Wednesday, October 08, 2003

Kenai residents apparently want both variety and continuity on their city council.

Council newcomers Blaine Gilman and Richard "Rick" Ross were voted in over incumbents John "Ozzie" Osborne and Amy Jackman while incumbent Pat Porter was re-elected to another term.

Three seats were up for grabs in the election -- a two-year seat and two, three-year seats.

For the two-year seat, Osborne, Gilman and another political newcomer, James Jenckes, were in the fray.

As of Tuesday night, Gilman had edged ahead with 472 votes to Osborne's 436. Jenckes took in 203 votes.

Gilman's campaign was based on fiscal responsibility.

"I thought my platform was pretty clear," he said. "What I basically ran on was a balanced budget and (that) a number of city services need to be outsourced, so that's what I plan to do."

Gilman said he is looking forward to getting started, but since this is his first elected position, he plans to take a few meetings to get his bearings before really rolling up his sleeves. When he does, however, he plans to keep his vow to not vote for any budget that isn't balanced.

"I think really my focus will be on the budget and getting a balanced budget, and before the city needs to do to much more, that's what they have to do."

Osborne served seven years cumulatively on the Kenai Plan-ning and Zoning Commission before being appointed to fill a vacant council seat in February. He said he may get involved in city government again in the future, but for now he will enjoy the break.

"It doesn't bother me that much," he said. "I think I'll enjoy my time off."

In the three-year races, voters were asked to select two candidates from a pool of five. The top two vote-getters as of Tuesday night were Porter with 536 votes and Ross with 513.

Porter said she is happy to serve the city again. This will be her second elected term to the council.

"Hopefully, people realize I care about this community and just want to help make it a better place to live, not just for the people who live here now but for their kids and grandkids. My heart is in this community," she said.

Since Porter has served four years on the council. She won't need an adjustment period and plans to jump right in on issues that are important to her, including getting the Kenai Recreation Center open and advancing the city's bluff erosion coastal trail project.

This is Ross' first time as an elected city official, but he is no stranger to city government. He has served as the city's police chief and city manager and is ready to jump in to his new role as city council member.

"I see a lot of work ahead," he said. "The dog caught the car, now you've got to actually do something with it."

Ross said he is looking forward to working with community groups and getting started on budget discussions. He hopes that when second quarter budget information is available in January, the council can review the budget decisions it made last year and start making new ones for the next fiscal year.

He is optimistic that it may be possible to reinstate some budget cuts that were instituted last year, although many will likely have to stay in place, he said.

"It may not be as bleak as it looked when (the council) had to address issues initially," he said. "... I'm very optimistic that we'll come out of this fine.

Ross unseated incumbent Amy Jackman, who had 320 votes as of Tuesday night.

"I guess it's a little disappointing," Jackman said. "There were projects I would liked to have seen go through, but just because I'm not on council doesn't mean I won't stick with those. ... I do have a desire to stay involved and really want to see some things go through."

Jackman said she is particularly interested in seeing the rec center reopened, development at the airport and new businesses coming to town. She served two years on the council.

"The people spoke and that's great," she said. "I think that I did a good job while in office, and I think I served the people of the city of Kenai and not myself."

Carol Brenckle, a local attorney and political newcomer, and Barry Eldridge, who has run for the council before and serves on the Kenai Planning and Zoning and Harbor commissions, also ran for the three-year seats. As of Tuesday night, Brenckle had 367 votes and Eldridge had 187.

In Soldotna, the voter turnout was about 21 percent. Two council seats were up for election, though neither were contested.

Incumbent James Stogsdill won his race with 519 votes, about 96 percent of the vote, and incumbent Sharon Moock won her race with 504 votes, about 95 percent of the vote.

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