Assembly selects Schaefer to represent Kenai

Jill Schaefer is taking over the job representing District 2 on the Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly after being elected by secret ballot.

The assembly selected Schaefer at the general assembly meeting Tuesday to represent District 2, which includes most of the city of Kenai. Because the seat was already vacant, she assumed the duties and began voting on issues immediately Tuesday night. She will serve until the October election, when she will either be re-elected or the winner of the election will assume the post.

After former assembly member Blaine Gilman resigned effective Jan. 18, four people applied for the seat — Thomas Randell Daly, Schaefer, Hal Smalley and Shauna Thornton. Other than Smalley, all three were new to public office.

Candidates needed to receive at least five votes to win. On the first round of voting, Smalley and Thornton were eliminated, with Daly receiving three votes and Schaefer receiving four. In the second round, Schaefer received five votes and Daly three.

The assembly interviewed all four Tuesday afternoon. Daly, who owns HiSpeed Gear in Soldotna, said he applied because he felt it was time to give back to the community.

“I have a need to serve the community,” he said. “… Through the years, I have been involved and invested in the community I serve in.”

A longtime resident, he said he had been a member of various chambers of commerce, community clubs and involved in the school district. The borough will be facing a number of issues in the upcoming year, most notably the challenge of the budget crisis facing the state. Daly said the borough should live within its budgetary means and he would like to see more money be spent locally, supporting local businesses.

Schaefer, who works with the Alaska Support Industry Alliance, a nonprofit advocating for oil and gas support companies, has lived in Kenai for approximately three years. She said she would bring a fresh perspective to the assembly — one of people raising young families on the Kenai. As the president of the local Republican Women’s Club and having worked on a number of political campaigns, she said she was familiar with the issues facing the borough, most notably the budget. She said one of the most important aspects of the budget is the importance of funding education responsibly and making sure the budget is not “bloated.”

She said she had experience resolving conflict and understanding opposing points of view through her work with the Alliance, community involvement and working on political campaigns.

“You have to have an end goal (in resolving conflict),” she said. “… I think compromise is huge.”

Smalley said he applied after multiple people had asked him during his mayoral campaign in 2016 to apply for the seat. He served on the assembly from 2008–2014, reaching the term limit in 2014. He said he would approach the budget thoughtfully as the borough assembly considered expenses.

“We’ve heard stuff about cost analysis — well, we’re going to have to look at that. We’ve heard stuff about cuts, well, we’re going to have to look at that,” Smalley said during his interview.

Thornton, who attended the committee interview by phone from Juneau, said she applied because she wanted to make sure young people felt connected to the government process. She has been involved in a number of boards over the years and ran for the Alaska House of Representatives in 2016, and said she regularly has conversations with members of the community about issues. On the budget, she said the assembly “could not compromise” on education funding but had to be thoughtful about expenses.

“It’s going to be interesting,” she said. “… A lot is going to depend on what happens nationally and at the state level.”

Daly and Schaefer said they were planning to run in the fall, and Smalley and Thornton said they were not sure if they would run yet.

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

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