Clam Gulch resident Brent Johnson is running for his third term on the Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly. He served on the assembly from 2010 to 2016. Johnson is running for District 7, which is currently held by Paul Fischer. District 7 is an area stretching just north of Kasilof all the way south of Happy Valley and Nikolaevsk. Johnson is a commercial fisherman and has lived in Alaska for 64 years, according to his candidate file.
What qualifies you to serve on the assembly?
I have six years of experience working on the assembly. I served for 15 years on the planning commission, which is good training grounds. I served as president as Cook Inlet Aquaculture Association for 12 years, which is also a good training ground. I served on the Fish and Game Advisory Committee for 10 years and served a couple years as chairman there, as well as the Kenai Peninsula Fishermen’s Association for a number of years, and served as president. I’ve been involved in a lot of community things. I’ve been an elder at a church and served on church boards. I am serving on board of equalization. I’ve served on that for four or five years. I’m a commercial fisherman, and we have more time in the winter than a person who works like a nine-to-five job. In my experience in being on the assembly before, and the planning commission, is these things take a lot of time. There’s lots to read and lots of requests to respond to.
Why are you pursuing a seat and what goals do you have?
I want to offer myself to help with government. I think that rather than complain, citizens should offer themselves to help and see if we can solve and see if we can find better ways to do things. I want to see teachers more appreciated. I want to see the animosity between the teacher associations and some borough, some citizens — I want to see that reduced. Schools are one of the most important responsibilities the borough has. There are environmental issues with salmon I think are important. There’s health care issues with the hospitals, both of them, that are important. I don’t know if I’ll be able to find any solutions in these areas, but I think I’m good as anybody to try.
Would you support new taxes or look for cuts to balance the budget?
Both. When I was on the assembly before, I introduced an ordinance to reduce the number of planning commissioners. When I got on, it had 11 members. It had grown to 14 when I got off and I never saw any reason to add any more. That’s an example of how I want to cut government where we can. I was really unpopular with some people and some places for doing that, but it saves like $15,000 a year — that’s better spent on something else.
How can the borough encourage higher voter turnout?
I think the taskforce made recommendations that had mail-in ballots. I think there’s a lot of merit to that. There’s a big fear, for some people, that people will cheat with mail-in ballots or that the father of the house will say ‘everybody is going to vote this way,’ but the fathers of the house already say ‘everybody is going to vote this way.’ I think you see what works in other areas. I like all the recommendations that taskforce brought forth, as far as increasing voter turnout.
The offering of invocations during assembly meetings has become a divisive issue over the last few years, costing taxpayers thousands of dollars. Ordinances have been introduced to rid the practice altogether. Where do you stand on that issue? I would have the borough government stay out of prayers as much as possible.
A record number of teachers retired from the district last year. What can the assembly do, whether through education funding or other ways, to retain teachers in the district?
One of the things I want to do is let educators know how much they’re appreciated. I think teachers tend to be dedicated people. The ones I’ve known have sure worked hard at it. We already funded to the cap. I would probably be one to fund to the cap. I’m pretty sure in the six years I was on the assembly, there were times we did not fund to the cap. We have to balance the budget, but we need to make teachers appreciated, and take real serious our children’s future and make sure they’re getting a good education. We can look at other places and see what’s working there. Let’s go look at the areas ranking number one and see what they’re doing.