Peter Ribbens is Nikiski’s new representative on the Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly following a 5-3 vote in favor by sitting assembly members Tuesday.
Ribbens is a senior environmental professional with Insight Environmental and a former emergency response coordinator with Tesoro Alaska. He holds a bachelor’s degree in geology and a master’s degree in marine biology from the University of Alaska Fairbanks and served on the Nikiski Fire Service Area Board.
Applications for the seat were solicited by the borough after Jesse Bjorkman, who has held the seat since 2019, was elected to the Alaska Senate last year. Bjorkman’s resignation from the assembly became effective late Monday night.
Other applicants included Veggies & Stuff co-owner Heidi Covey, Kenai Central High School swimming and diving coach William Hubler and Nikiski Advisory Planning Commissioner Lenora Niesen.
All but Ribbens applied for the vacancy on the day the application period closed and all were given the opportunity to field questions from assembly members during Tuesday’s meeting of the assembly’s Committee of the Whole. Applicants were also given three minutes each to speak during the assembly’s regular meeting.
Assembly members voiced their support for candidates via secret ballots voted during their regular meeting Tuesday evening. A successful candidate needed to receive at least five votes to be appointed to the assembly.
Ribbens received five votes after the first round of voting. The three assembly members who voted in opposition to Ribbens’ appointment included Kenai representative Richard Derkevorkian, who said public comments received favored Covey.
“If you tallied the emails and laydown comments, like I did tonight, you would note that Heidi has four times the supportive comments of the next closest candidate,” Derkevorkian said. “We are here to represent the constituents of the Kenai Peninsula Borough and we should respect their wishes and appoint the candidate that the majority of their community contacted us about. The assembly would be remiss to appoint anyone other than Heidi to the seat based off the public’s wishes.”
Assembly Vice President Tyson Cox pushed back, saying that the opinion of public comments submitted to the assembly may not necessarily reflect the opinion of the entire community.
“That is not a majority of comments from the community,” Cox said. “That is just the majority of comments that we received today. Or over the past few days.”
Ribbens will serve until the Kenai Peninsula Borough’s next regular election, in October. Ribbens told assembly members Tuesday that, if appointed, he intends to run for a full term on the assembly later this year.
During his first closing comments as an assembly member, he also thanked assembly members for their support.
“I would also like to thank the other three candidates from Nikiski,” Ribbens said. “It’s a wonderful problem to have multiple candidates for position like this … I also would like to thank the assembly for your support my application.
Tuesday’s assembly meeting can be streamed on the borough’s website at kpb.legistar.com.