His confidence in continuing in his current position is high.
“I think that I’ll be re-elected because I believe that I’ve done a good job and I think that people are recognizing that,” said Kenai Peninsula Borough Mayor Mike Navarre.
He said he has the most experience and believes that he is the best qualified to serve as borough mayor.
“I carry out the responsibilities and I take the job seriously and I work hard at it,” he said. “I educate myself on the issues and I utilize the expertise that’s available to me.”
Navarre, 58, said he is running again because he still has some things he would like to accomplish with the current management team, and if the borough elects a new mayor, Navarre is concerned the learning curve of the job will delay progress.
“I think that anyone who hasn’t been in the position before would tend to underestimate the job and responsibilities that go along with it,” he said.
Navarre was first elected as mayor in 1996 and then again in 2011.
He thinks with relationships he has built in his positions, he can best influence stakeholder and legislative-level decisions on the Alaska LNG Project. The project proposes Nikiski as the site for a liquefied natural gas plant and terminal.
“It takes a long time to build relationships,” he said. “I’ve been living in the community consistently my whole life, except for college and a couple years I spent in Fairbanks. … So I have a lot of good, strong contacts that I built at the state level, at the national level.”
In the mid-1970s Navarre said he quit college and went to Fairbanks with a plan of getting a job on the North Slope. Instead, he worked in construction for a few years before moving back to Kenai in 1978.
He worked for his father and then decided to finish his degree in government and minor in economics. He was the first in his family to graduate from college. Navarre then attended law school for about four weeks before decided that wasn’t what he wanted to do, so he returned to the Kenai.
In 1984, he ran for the Alaska State House of Representatives.
“(I) decided I would take a shot at it really with the idea, I think at the time, I thought I would lose, but then I’d be able to start at city council or assembly level and building my way up if I wanted to do something like that,” he said.
He spent the next 12 years in the Legislature.
“It was a great, great learning environment,” Navarre said. “It’s so interesting because you get inundated with information on a variety of areas and subjects, and not only that, you see human interaction and sort of human psychology at play because you see people at their very best and their very worst.”
In the late 1980s, during the economy crash, Navarre said his father asked him to become further involved with the family business.
Navarre put together a business plan for the family corporation.
“We had to take a lot of risks because we were really a very small company at the time and under capitalized really because we had just gone through the … recession in Alaska,” Navarre said. “But I put a plan together and we slowly started growing the business, buying the property taking some risks.”
The family business, Zan Inc., now operates eight Arby’s and eight RadioShacks in Alaska.
His life as a businessman is applicable to his job as mayor, he said. He looks at the information, listens to input and concerns from others and analyzes that against his own experience and education to determine the best decisions for the public.
He said if he has made a decision, but additional information comes forward, he is not afraid to change direction.
Between his first term as mayor and his current term, Navarre said the biggest change is probably health care with expanded services at the borough-owned hospitals — Central Peninsula and South Peninsula — bringing in more revenue. Rising health care costs have greatly impacted the borough’s budget with employee healthcare costs making up a large percentage of expenditures.
He said the cost of health care is a “huge problem that he would like to engage the community in a conversation to develop a vision for health care.
“How do we use (the hospitals) in order to try to help provide for the health care needs for our residents over the long-term?” he said. “And that’s something that there are so many vested interests in health care … and so you can’t change it quickly.”
Navarre said the Alaska LNG Project is another area the borough needs to pay close attention to particularly during the Environmental Impact Statement phase and the socioeconomic impacts and what the infrastructure needs will be.
“If this construction project goes, it will be a big boom for a couple years,” he said “And then after the boom there’ll still be a growth in the population and ongoing long-term needs, which is what you really have to try to focus on, how you address those.”
While the borough mayor’s job is time-consuming and can be thankless, Navarre said he thinks his father, former borough mayor George A. Navarre, would be proud of the job he’s done. Navarre said his father’s service was an inspiration for his own political career.
If he isn’t re-elected, Navarre said he will find ways to fill his time.
“I’m not expecting that and certainly, if that were to happen, I’d take a look at the things I want to do in both our family business and personally and start doing some of those,” he said.
Kaylee Osowski can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.