Out the door: Assembly says so long to 3 senior members

Posted: Friday, October 15, 2010

Tuesday night's Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly meeting focused on three individuals.

"As we refer to them in group here: Pete, Paul and Mary ... uh Gary," Bill Smith, Homer's representative, said. The slip up sparked a roar of laughter consistent with the meeting's lighthearted yet nostalgic tone.

While Pete Sprague, Paul Fischer and Gary (not Mary) Superman are no musical group famous for the song "Puff, The Magic Dragon," many sang the praises of the three assembly members as the community bid adieu to nearly 50 years of collective borough assembly experience.

Their replacements, Linda Murphy (Soldotna), Brent Johnson (Kasilof) and Raymond Tauriainen (Nikiski) were sworn in on Tuesday.

The departing members were honored with plaques commemorating their years of service. The implementation of term limits forced them to step down, though they are eligible to run again in three years.

Sprague has served on the assembly since 1998. He was vice president from 2000 to 2001, 2005 to 2006, 2007 to 2009 and president from 2002 to 2004 and 2009 to 2010.

Fischer served from 1975 to 1982 and again between 1998 and 2010. He was vice president from 1979 to 1980 and president from 1980 to 1981.

Superman served from 1989 to 1992 and again between 2001 and 2010. He was vice president between 2002 and 2004 and president from 2004 to 2005.

Sprague, Fischer and Superman used the assembly member comments period of the meeting to deliver what were essentially farewell speeches.

Superman hinted at his desire to stay involved.

"I feel like there's a lot of unfinished business, but that's what happens, I guess, sometimes in politics. You just kind of walk away from it," Superman said. "There are a lot of issues that I'm still very much concerned about."

He reminded listeners about what the borough will be losing, while also offering words of encouragement.

"Being up here on the assembly, you're in the trenches. And for the folks up here that have been our longtime assembly people, they have been in the trenches a long time," Superman said. "There's a heck of a lot of knowledge that they have amassed in that time, and all I can do is wish the new assembly the best of luck. I know you are going to do a good job."

Fischer was in his usual joking mood.

"Some of the legislation that you folks voted for was terrible, and so I had to go the other way," Fischer said. "I was a loner a lot of times, but I was always on the right side. I could always go home and look in the mirror and say I did the right thing."

Fischer said he doesn't plan to be a regular attendee at future meetings, but he's always just a phone call away.

"You have my phone number. You can call me up and, I'll tell you how to vote," Fischer said, laughing.

Sprague spoke about the importance of public service and its commitment to leaving things better than they were.

"Each and every one of us that's involved in government and service really tries to do that. We believe that in our hearts," Sprague said. "I want to thank everyone for the kind words. It has been an honor and a privilege to be an elected official and to serve all of you."

Other assembly members said how much they are going to miss the three representatives.

"Most of the modifiers have already been used, but I have some that have yet to be used," Hal Smalley, Kenai's representative, said. "Fifty years it was stated and it's been suggested. That's a lot of time. That's a significant loss of historical perspective and, perhaps, hysterical."

Knopp said he will miss their guidance.

"I can still see Mr. Sprague over there eyeing me when I'm doing amendments. And if I'm missing something I can glance over and I can tell if he's giving me the look whether I'm doing OK or whether I missed something and I need to back up," Knopp said.

Eventually, there was nothing left to do but go home. So Sprague, for the last time, delivered his signature signoff.

"Once again, thank you," Sprague said. "Seeing no other business before us, we are adjourned."

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

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