Hibbert to replace Knopp on assembly

Brent Hibbert will step into a seat on the Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly representing District 1, effective Wednesday.

Gary Knopp, the current assembly member from District 1 — which includes Kalifornsky Beach Road and part of Kenai — resigned from the position, also effective Tuesday. He will take up his new role in the Legislature representing District 30 to the Alaska House of Representatives after winning the seat last November.

The owner of Alaska Cab, Hibbert is a newcomer to local government. He said he applied because he felt like it was time to start giving back to the community where he built his business. He said he would take a conservative approach and would bring the “common sense” he had in building his business. He also identified the budget as the main concern facing the borough, saying people and businesses would likely have to “tighten their belts” in the challenging fiscal climate, but did not elaborate on specifics.

After Knopp announced his resignation on Nov. 22, eight people applied to fill the vacancy. Some had experience in local politics — applicant Rick Koch was Kenai’s city manager until last Friday, applicant Dan Castimore currently serves on the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District’s Board of Education and applicant David Wartinbee served on the borough’s Anadromous Fish Habitat Task Force in 2012 and ran for the District 1 seat in 2015, losing narrowly to Knopp. Applicant Dick Peck served on both the Homer Advisory Planning Commission and the borough Planning Commission as well as two terms on the city council in Unalaska.

Koch said he applied because he wants to be involved in public service. He said fiscal stability is the number one concern in the borough at present, especially in light of declining state contributions through municipal revenue sharing and contributions to education and pensions. Because of the cuts and instability from the state, local governments have been increasingly forced to start their budget processes “with their hair on fire,” he said.

He told the assembly that he would bring a long history of government work to the assembly.

“I will be a supportive and comfortable colleague to work with,” he said during his testimony to the assembly.

Castimore said he had been considering a position on the assembly for a long time and has been involved in politics for as long as he could remember. The budget, and particularly education funding, are the foremost issues in his mind, and the borough assembly will have to look at personnel in the future to reduce costs because personnel costs are the biggest part of the budget, he said.

“I think the only reasonable way to reduce budgets is to reduce personnel costs,” he said.

Wartinbee said he prepared for the position by informing himself and would not make any decisions without having all the information before him. With a background as a high school teacher and Kenai Peninsula College professor, biologist, lawyer and volunteer, he said he has dealt with conflict in a variety of ways and knew that there isn’t always a way to resolve it, but there were ways to work with it. He said he would try to understand every side of an issue before taking action on it.

“I can’t form an opinion or decide on something until I have the information,” he said. “That’s what scientists do.”

Peck, whose background is in utility management and currently runs a utility consulting company, said he wanted to be involved because he wanted to provide opportunities for his grandchildren. He said he would bring knowledge of the legislative process and a collaborative attitude to the assembly and that he thought there were more efficiences to cut down on borough costs. He referenced a report Borough Mayor Mike Navarre submitted to the assembly outlining recent efficiency efforts to cut costs.

“It’s just scratching the surface,” he said.

Others are newcomers to politics. For Hibbert and applicants Derrick Medina, a current Alaska Department of Corrections employee, Breena Walters, who works for Blazy Construction, and Matthew Wilson, the general manager of the KSRM radio station, the position are a first foray into local government.

Medina said he applied because he had been following the assembly’s actions and agreed with many of the decisions the group had arrived at, and he wanted to contribute. He said he agreed with Hibbert that people would have to tighten their belts to get through fiscal challenges in the state, and that he would consider new revenues if it was necessary to protect services and resources.

“We like the river and the outdoors … and we have to do what’s necessary to protect those things,” he said.

Walters said she applied as a first leap into local government involvement and also saw the budget as a top priority. She said she was in favor of taxes to support healthy resources and thought the younger generation might be as well, if they saw the benefit for the environment of the Kenai Peninsula. She said she was experienced in conflict resolution as well.

“In the construction industry, there’s always something going wrong,” she said. “I think conflict … arises when people don’t feel represented.”

The assembly interviewed all eight candidates during the Committee of the Whole meeting Tuesday and voted for Knopp’s replacement during the general assembly meeting. Knopp was excluded from voting and assembly member Paul Fischer, who hosts a radio program, was excluded from voting in rounds in which Wilson was included because Wilson is his supervisor.

A candidate needed at least 5 votes to win the seat. After the first round, the only candidates who received votes were Hibbert, Wartinbee and Wilson. After the second round, only Hibbert and Wartinbee continued, at which point Fischer could vote. In the final round, Hibbert received six votes to Wartinbee’s two, making him the new member.

Hibbert will serve until the October municipal regular election, when the residents of the district will vote for a new representative to serve a three-year term. All of the applicants for the seat said they planned to run for the seat in October except Koch, Peck and Castimore — Castimore and Koch said they weren’t sure, and Peck said he would not run.

“(If not appointed) I will dedicate myself to my favorite pursuit, which is raising my grandchildren and fishing on the Kenai,” Peck said.

Reach Elizabeth Earl at elizabeth.earl@peninsulaclarion.com.

More in News

Members of the community attend the first part of the Challenger Learning Center of Alaska’s Food Security and Sustainability Series in August 2022. (Photo courtesy Challenger Learning Center of Alaska)
Challenger Learning Center workshop focuses on food sustainability

Gathering, growing and preserving food in the form of plants, fish and other animals will be discussed

Examples of contemporary books that have been banned or challenged in recent years are displayed on Saturday, Sept. 24, 2022, at the Soldotna Public Library in Soldotna, Alaska. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)
Soldotna library hosts Banned Book Club

Books have been challenged or banned for their content nationwide.

Nikiski Middle/High School Principal Shane Bostic stands near a track and field long jump sand pit on Monday, Sept. 19, 2022, in Nikiski, Alaska. The track is one of several projects in a bond package Kenai Peninsula voters will consider during the Oct. 4 municipal election next month. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
‘Critical needs’: Nikiski athletes await upgrade

Funding for long-delayed school projects on Oct. 4 ballot

Lars Arneson runs to victory and a new event record in the Kenai River Marathon on Sunday, Sept. 25, 2022, in Kenai, Alaska. (Photo by Jeff Helminiak/Peninsula Clarion)
A speech, a smartphone and a bike

Circumstances lead Arneson to Kenai River Marathon record

Trees with fall colors populate the Shqui Tsatnu Creek gully as seen from Fourth Avenue on Friday, Sept. 23, 2022, in Kenai, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Kenai to use $770k in grants to remove hazard trees along Shqui Tsatnu Creek

The money will be used to mitigate hazards caused by dead and dying spruce trees over more than 100 acres of city land

Alaska state Rep. David Eastman, a Wasilla Republican, is shown seated on the House floor on April 29, 2022, in Juneau, Alaska. (AP Photo/Becky Bohrer, File)
Alaska judge keeps Oath Keepers lawmaker on November ballot

Judge Jack McKenna on Thursday ordered elections officials to delay certifying the result of that particular race

An image purportedly from the computer screen of a digital media specialist for Gov. Mike Dunleavy shows numerous files and folders of campaign advertising. A complaint filed against the governor, plus other individuals and organizations, claims administrative staff is illegally doing paid campaign work on behalf of the governor. (Screenshot from complaint filed with the Alaska Public Offices Commission)
Dunleavy faces more accusations in campaign complaint

Governor calls it “specious and unfounded.”

A recent photo of Anesha "Duffy" Murnane, missing since Oct. 17, 2019, in Homer, Alaska. (Photo provided, Homer Police Department)
A 2019 photo of Anesha “Duffy” Murnane, who went missing since Oct. 17, 2019, in Homer. (Photo provided, Homer Police Department)
Calderwood indicted for murder

Indictment charges man accused of killing Anesha “Duffy” Murnane with first-degree murder, kidnapping and sexual assault.

Triumvirate Theatre is seen on Monday, Feb. 22, 2021, in Nikiski, Alaska. The building burned in a fire on Feb. 20 of that year. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Kenai council gives Triumvirate more time to build theater

The Kenai City Council voted last summer to conditionally donate a 2-acre parcel of city land near Daubenspeck Park and the Kenai Walmart

Most Read