A look at the borough assembly and mayor races

Editor’s note: This story has been corrected to show that Dale Bagley represents District 4 on the Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly.

Kenai Peninsula Borough voters will have a hefty ballot to go through at the Oct. 3 regular election.

With five Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly seats up for grabs and the borough mayor’s seat coming open, the borough administration and the majority of the assembly will change after Oct. 3.

Three candidates have filed for borough mayor, all of whom entered the race by the spring. Charlie Pierce of Sterling, Linda Hutchings of Soldotna and Dale Bagley of Soldotna are all familiar faces in the community and political scene of the central peninsula: Pierce served on the borough assembly from 2008–2014 and Hutchings serves on Soldotna’s Parks and Recreation Board, served on the Charter Commission to draft a home-rule charter for Soldotna in 2016 and on the state Workers Compensation Board. Bagley currently represents District 4 on the Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly and previously served as borough mayor from 1999–2005.

Hutchings and Bagley are lifetime peninsula residents while Pierce has lived in the community for about 42 years. Pierce filed his letter of intent to run for borough mayor first, back in October 2016, followed by Hutchings in November. Bagley filed his in February 2017.

Three of the borough assembly races are contested, while two will go automatically to the incumbents who were the sole filers. Kelly Cooper, who currently serves as assembly president, was the only candidate to file for District 8, which encompasses Homer. Cooper was elected in 2014, when she was again the only candidate to file for the seat. She listed accomplishments over her three years in office in her candidate’s statement, including serving on the borough’s Healthcare Task Force in 2015 and 2016, co-chairing the committee that recommended the newly formed East Peninsula Highway Emergency Service Area and voting against the mill levy increase proposed by Borough Mayor Mike Navarre for fiscal year 2018, among other items.

“I am passionate about this community,” she wrote. “I will listen to my constituents — in earnest — and represent our collective interests.”

Kenn Carpenter of Seward will also take the District 6 seat without a challenger. Carpenter stepped in for former assembly member Brandii Holmdahl after she resigned in January 2017 and the assembly selected him to replace her for the remainder of the year before the next election. Carpenter originally lost to Holmdahl in the October 2015 election, when they both ran for the District 6 assembly seat.

A procurement officer for the Alaska Vocational Technical Center in Seward, he wrote in his candidate’s statement that he thinks taxes, property taxes, right-of-way issue and property ownership need to be addressed. He also wrote in the statement that he believes “strongly in government, but (I) believe that the people of communities should be more involved in that government and their voices should be heard.”

Kalifornsky

The other three races are contested, two with three candidates and one with two. District 1, which encompasses the Kalifornsky area south of Kenai, has three candidates: incumbent Brent Hibbert and challengers Dan Castimore and Kate Veh. Hibbert joined the assembly in January after former assembly member Gary Knopp resigned to take up his seat in the Alaska House of Representatives. The president of Alaska Cab, Inc., he wrote in his candidate’s statement that he has lived in Alaska for 33 years and came to own the company in 1990 after driving a cab himself.

Castimore, a current member of the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District’s Board of Education, initially applied for the seat when Knopp resigned in January but was passed over during the interview and selection process. He outlined several specific issues before the assembly in his candidate’s statement, including his opposition to the borough’s controversial invocation policy, his support for a responsible marijuana industry and reducing governmental waste and regulatory overreach.

“I feel that the current assembly is out of touch with what the public really wants,” he wrote. “Whether it is trying to reestablish sales taxes on food, the invocation policy, or the initiative to ban commercial marijuana, the will of the people is seldom followed.”

Veh, who most recently ran for election in the Homer Electric Association’s Board of Directors election, wrote in her candidate’s statement that she also opposed the assembly’s current invocation policy and would support a legal cannabis industry primarily for a viable hemp paper, clothing and food industry. She also listed consideration of a “sin tax” on tobacco, alcohol, recreational cannabis, plastic bags and junk food, improvement of public transportation, homelessness and economic diversification in her priority list.

Kenai

In District 2, incumbent Jill Schaefer will be challenged by Duane Bannock and Hal Smalley. Schaefer assumed the seat in February after former assembly member Blaine Gilman vacated it. Bannock, who manages the Uptown Motel in Kenai and grew up in Kenai, formerly served on the Kenai City Council and the Kenai Planning and Zoning Commision, according to his candidate statement. He put emphasis on downsizing government in his candidate’s statement.

Smalley, who last ran for a government seat in Kenai’s 2016 mayoral election against now Kenai Mayor Brian Gabriel, last served on the borough assembly from 2009–2014. He also served in the Alaska House of Representatives for one term and on the Kenai City Council for a number of years. He too applied for the opening on the assembly when Gilman resigned.

Among the issues he listed on his candidate’s statement were supporting economic development, keeping the mill rate low, funding public schools and maintaining local medical facilities.

“My record reflects support for a government that operates with a balanced budget, keeping property taxes low, and helping to create a community that is the best place to live, work and raise a family,” he wrote.

Sterling/Funny River

The only race without an incumbent is District 5, which includes Sterling, Funny River and part of the area between Soldotna and Kasilof. Assembly member Stan Welles, who currently represents the area, resigned his seat for medical reasons effective Aug. 19 and won’t seek reelection. Leslie Morton and Norm Blakeley have filed for the seat.

Morton, who has a background with the Navy and the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District, wrote in her candidate’s statement that she chose to live on the Kenai Peninsula because of its good schools, quality health care, business atmosphere, growing agriculture sector, arts and access to the outdoors.

“I want the Kenai to continue to be a place where our kids and friends will choose to live,” she wrote. “We need a reasonable balance in how the Assembly considers new ordinances, budget allocations, and comprehensive land planning.”

Blakeley, a career auctioneer who owns Alaska Trading Co. and Loan and Blakeley’s Auction Company, both in Soldotna, has served on the Kenai Peninsula Borough’s Road Service Area Board, Soldotna Planning and Zoning Commission and the Kenai Peninsula Economic Development District Board. He wrote in his candidate’s statement that he would focus on bringing government spending down to match revenue.

“I am very conservative and feel that we all have to live within our means,” he wrote. “I am feeling more and more that our government from local to national does not understand that concept well. I’d like, if at all possible, to instill some of those principles into our local government.”

Reach Elizabeth Earl at elizabeth.earl@peninsulaclarion.com.

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