James Baisden. (Photo courtesy James Baisden)

James Baisden. (Photo courtesy James Baisden)

Baisden to retire, step down as chief of staff

Baisden has served as borough Mayor Charlie Pierce’s chief of staff since 2018.

James Baisden will step down as Kenai Peninsula Borough Mayor Charlie Pierce’s chief of staff effective June 1 to spend more time with his family. Baisden confirmed his retirement on Tuesday.

Baisden has served as Pierce’s chief of staff since 2018. Prior to working for the borough, Baisden served as Nikiski Fire Service Area chief and as the chief of emergency services. Baisden has also served in the military.

“I’ve got almost 32 years in the system and it’s time for me to figure out what I want to do next,” Baisden said. “I’ve got three kids at home, and I’ve got one who’s graduating and I want to spend the summer with them this year before we start losing them out of our household.”

Most recently, Baisden ran to replace Gary Knopp, who died in a midair plane collision last summer, as the representative for Alaska State House District 30, which includes Kenai and Soldotna. Baisden lost to Ron Gillham. Baisden and his wife Rhonda have also been active in mobilizing people on the peninsula against COVID-19 mitigation protocols implemented by the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District, though Baisden said that did not impact his decision to retire.

“My goal here is to be here for another two months and finish off everything we’ve got going on this year and I just haven’t had enough time to really think about what’s next,” Baisden said. “What’s next for me right now, in my mind, is going to be spending as much time with my family as I can.”

In his resignation letter sent to Pierce, Baisden said that he has enjoyed his time working for the borough and that he hopes to help with the transition moving forward.

“I have enjoyed my 13 years of employment with the Borough, with the highlight of my career working the last few years as the Mayor’s Chief of Staff,” Baisden wrote. “My goal is to provide you with 3 months’ notice and to help you with the current budget process and future leadership transition.”

Mayor Charlie Pierce said Tuesday that while he is excited for Baisden to be able to spend more time with his family, the announcement took him by surprise.

In selecting a new chief of staff, Pierce said that he is going to be “very careful” during the process and will keep borough employees and peninsula residents in mind when determining who can best meet their needs.

“I want to be very, very methodical and considerate about it,” Pierce said. “I may run here for a while solo, but I’m going to be very careful on the selection process as to who I bring on as the chief staff.”

Pierce said it’s too early to tell whether or not he will recruit internally or externally for Baisden’s replacement, but that he wants whoever comes in to be results-oriented and to have a strong work ethic.

“I’m going to take the time I need to make sure that the individual that comes in fits well,” Pierce said.

Reach reporter Ashlyn O’Hara at ashlyn.ohara@peninsulaclarion.com.

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