Kenn Carpenter is running against Cindy Ecklund for the Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly’s east peninsula seat. Carpenter has held the seat since 2017 and has also served as chair of the borough’s lands committee. Carpenter also works at AVTEC in Seward.
Carpenter said in a Sept. 30 interview with the Clarion that, in seeking reelection to the assembly, his biggest priority will be addressing deferred maintenance projects at Kenai Peninsula Borough School District schools. The district identified about $30 million in “critical” projects earlier this year.
He said he doesn’t pledge to fund the school district to the cap because he doesn’t always know what the cap will be. During the most recent budget cycle, for example, the school district requested to be funded to the cap, which was around $53 million, while Kenai Peninsula Borough Mayor Charlie Pierce proposed $43 million as a minimum amount. The final figure was around $48 million.
“I still would like to get the state to start funding the schools so that we won’t have this big discussion every year when the school district comes in and says this is how much we want,” Carpenter said.
Carpenter added he would be willing to put the projects out to bond, but that even then he doesn’t think the maintenance could be accomplished in the next three years.
“I’m really into the school buildings because they’re … an asset for the borough,” Carpenter said. “It’s our money — it’s yours and my money — and I think that’s a big issue. I’m going to help push … redoing the schools.”
In reflecting on how the borough distributed federal COVID-19 relief funds, Carpenter attributed the borough’s success to borough staff. If KPBSD had not also received federal pandemic relief funds, he said he would have liked to see some of the borough’s money be put toward schools.
As the borough continues to grapple with how to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic, Carpenter said he thinks it was a good idea to leave health care recommendations up to hospitals, adding that he isn’t a doctor. Criticism of how Central Peninsula Hospital treats COVID patients voiced by Pierce during an assembly meeting earlier this month, Carpenter said, “sadden(ed)” him.
“I support the mayor because, like I said, he’s surrounded himself with a bunch of excellent people and that’s what makes our borough rock and roll,” Carpenter said. “When the mayor goes off like he did the one day, it saddens me because he’s just stating his opinion, and he gets an opinion, but it might be the wrong time to be (giving) his opinion.”
For all the arguing assembly members get into, Carpenter said differences in opinion are what prevent the body from becoming an echo chamber.
“You’ve heard us argue and at the end, I always try to say that I appreciate everybody there,” Carpenter said. “By all of us being there, we’re strong and I still hold that opinion.”
In pitching himself as a candidate to voters, Carpenter said he has only missed one assembly meeting in four years and has tried to do what voters want, whether that means voting against proposed increases to mill rates or funding schools responsibly.
“I take pride in what I do,” Carpenter said. “I argue for my people and I think I’m a strong candidate to keep going on.”
The municipal election is on Oct. 5.
Reach reporter Ashlyn O’Hara at email@example.com.