A lone voter fills in their ballot at Soldotna Prep School in Soldotna, Alaska, during Election Day on Tuesday, Oct. 3, 2023. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)

A lone voter fills in their ballot at Soldotna Prep School in Soldotna, Alaska, during Election Day on Tuesday, Oct. 3, 2023. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)

Borough, Soldotna, Seward certify election results

Results for multiple borough seats came down to just a handful of votes.

The Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly on Tuesday certified the results of the Oct. 3 election, cementing winners in races for public office around the Kenai Peninsula. Results for multiple borough seats came down to just a handful of votes.

Borough assembly

In the race for seats on the borough assembly, incumbent candidates Bill Elam and Peter Ribbens both retained their seats.

Elam, who represents Sterling and Funny River, will serve another three-year term, while Ribbens will finish out the two-year term for Nikiski’s seat. Ribbens’ term is only two years because he is finishing the term of Jesse Bjorkman, who was serving on the assembly at the time he was elected to the Alaska Senate in 2022.

Sitting assembly members Richard Derkevorkian, who represents Kenai, and Lane Chesley, who represents Homer, did not run for reelection. Replacing them will be Ryan Tunseth in Kenai and Kelly Cooper in Homer. Tunseth ran unopposed for the seat, while Cooper, who has previously served as assembly president, ran against candidate Heath Smith.

Kenai Peninsula Borough Mayor Peter Micciche ran unopposed for reelection. Elam, Ribbens, Tunseth, Cooper and Micciche were sworn in during Tuesday’s assembly meeting.

Assembly on Tuesday thanked Derkevorkian and Chesley for their service on the assembly.

Derkevorkian said Tuesday that he plans to stay involved by working alongside the borough and school district to help grow the community.

“The assembly represents the citizens of the peninsula and the need to adhere to their wishes as we govern,” Derkevorkian said. “I’d like to extend my heartfelt gratitude to everyone who encouraged me to run for our office three years ago, and to those who have been a guiding light on this path, your support and collaboration has been invaluable.”

In his parting comments, Chesley thanked the assembly and borough staff for their support during his time on the assembly. While Chesley doesn’t have any regrets, he said, something he wished he could have done while representing Homer was find new ways for the borough to help pay for deferred maintenance in KPBSD schools.

“That’s the challenge I leave with you,” Chesley said. “ … That’s one of the big challenges facing future assemblies is the dollars that it’s going to take to keep our schools in good working condition for our students.”

Board of Education

Borough election results also showed two upsets among the four races for seats on the KPBSD board of education.

The race for the board’s central seat, which covers the communities of Kasilof, Ninilchik and Nikolaevsk, came down to just 11 votes. Debbie Cary, who has served on the board since 2017 and as board president for the last year, lost her bid for reelection to the board against challenger Dianne MacRae.

For the school board seat that covers Sterling and Funny River, incumbent Beverley Romanin lost to challenger Kelley Cizek by more than 150 votes. Cizek will serve a partial, one-year term that will end next year. Both Romanin and Cizek are finishing the term of Jessica Waller, who was elected to the board in 2021 and resigned her seat in 2022.

Incumbent candidate Jason Tauriainen carried a significant lead over challenging candidate Lyndsey Bertoldo in his bid for reelection to the school board’s Nikiski seat. Penny Vadla ran unopposed for reelection to the board’s Soldotna seat.

City councils

Cities around the borough also reported unofficial election results this week.

In Kenai, the race for the two open seats on the council saw tight margins, according to unofficial election results published Tuesday. That’s with the exception of incumbent council member Henry Knackstedt, who carried a sizable lead over the other three candidates as the only person to receive more than 30% of all votes cast.

The second highest vote-getter was Phil Daniel who received just five more votes than incumbent Teea Winger, who was the third-highest vote getter. Candidate Glenese Pettey, the lowest vote-getter, received just nine votes fewer than Winger. Certification of Kenai’s election results is scheduled for the city council’s Oct. 19 meeting and terms begin the Monday following certification.

Election results for the City of Soldotna were certified during the city council’s regular meeting on Wednesday. Incumbent Mayor Paul Whitney and council members Chera Wackler and Dan Nelson all won their respective races. The three were each sworn in for three-year terms during Wednesday’s meeting.

In Seward, city council members certified the results of the Oct. 3 election during their Monday night meeting. Incumbent council member Robert Barnwell was reelected to the council, as was Julie Crites, who has previously served an appointed term on the body. She replaces outgoing council member Liz DeMoss.

Seward city voters during the same election killed, for the third time in since 2000, sale of the city’s electric utility. Election results show that about 45.7% of the 313 people who voted supported the sale. Seward’s charter requires 60% voter support in order to advance utility sales. A second ballot proposition, which would have lowered that threshold to 50%, also failed.

“I look forward to rebuilding Seward Electric,” Barnwell said during Monday’s Seward City Council meeting. “I have no regrets. It’s what it is. The people voted twice. I’m looking forward to seeing what we can do with this.”

Boroughwide election results can be found on the Kenai Peninsula Borough clerk’s website at kpb.us/assembly-clerk/elections/election-results.

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

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