Dan Nelson is running for Seat B on the Soldotna City Council.
He most recently served as the Kenai Peninsula Borough’s emergency manager at the Office of Emergency Management. He announced earlier this year that he would be stepping down and launching his own business in emergency response on the central peninsula. It was that transition period, Nelson said in an interview at the Clarion office on Aug. 31, that gave him the opportunity to run for city council.
“In my position in the borough, I was on call and I had to be beholden to unpredictable schedules and those things,” Nelson said. “Now that things are a little bit more predictable (and) I’m able to kind of set my own schedule, I wanted to get back into public service in another way.”
From his position at the borough, Nelson said he would be able to bring knowledge about how cities operate and provide services to the city council, as well as his familiarity with the area and with how government works, which he said is “key.”
In running for the council, Nelson said he hopes to continue some of the things he said the city is already doing well and to encourage “productive discourse,” which he said are similar to the goals he had while working at the borough.
“We’re at the local level (and) it really impacts the things that residents deal with day-to-day,” Nelson said. “At the end of the day, we’re all trying to get to a goal — efficient service, or a good place to live, or whatever those things are — and I think there’s really a way to have good discussions and bring people together to get to a common point of view.”
Among the things currently going well in the City of Soldotna, Nelson said, are the parks and recreation opportunities, including campgrounds, parks and the Soldotna Regional Sports Complex. Supporting the city’s Parks and Recreation Department, he said, is important to residents’ quality of life.
In reflecting on how the city has responded to the COVID-19 pandemic, Nelson said he agrees with the way Soldotna has worked to balance meeting the needs of residents and keeping the government open while keeping people safe. As the borough’s emergency manager, Nelson helped spearhead the borough’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, including coordinating large-scale vaccination clinics across the peninsula.
“With this delta variant we’re back at requiring masks inside those facilities and those types of things,” Nelson said. “I think that was a very, very prudent move on their part and something that will absolutely contribute to the health and safety of the people that use those facilities, like the sports center.”
Ultimately, Nelson said what he thinks he brings to the table as a candidate is an ability to have frank discussions with other council members and more than 15 years of experience in public administration in the borough, as well as more time to invest in the city, he said.
“I’ve got the time and the skill now to be able to devote a little bit more (time) to my community, rather than the borough as a whole and some of those things,” Nelson said. “As a very close to lifelong resident … I’m very invested in (Soldotna) and certainly wanted to continue to make it a place where it’s great to live.”
Nelson is running against Erick Hugarte for Seat B on the council. Hugarte was appointed to the seat earlier this year after Pamela Parker announced her resignation from the council.
The municipal election is on Oct. 5.
Reach reporter Ashlyn O’Hara at firstname.lastname@example.org.