Multiple seats to come open on assembly

There will be three empty seats to fill on the Kenai Peninsula Borough assembly as 2017 kicks off.

Assembly member Gary Knopp, newly elected to the Alaska House of Representatives, announced his resignation from the assembly at the Dec. 6 meeting to take up his position in the Legislature in January. Knopp, who was reelected to the assembly in October 2015 after reaching the term limit in 2012, has served about 15 months of his three-year term.

The assembly seat he leaves open represents District 1, which includes the Kalifornsky Beach Road area between Mile 11 and Mile 20 and stretches north across the Kenai River to include part of Ridgeway and the Kenai Spur Highway up to approximately Mile 6. Applications are available online and will be accepted until 5 p.m. on Thursday, Dec. 22.

Knopp said several people had already expressed interest in the seat.

“I think what I’d like everybody to know is to remember their role as an assembly member, which is as a policymaker,” he said. “I think that’s important.

Knopp’s won’t be the only vacancy in early 2017. Assembly member Blaine Gilman, who represents District 2 — which includes most of the city of Kenai — will be resigning from his seat in January because he plans to move out of his district. Assembly policy states that when a member moves out of his or her district, they have 30 days to offer a resignation.

Gilman plans to move to the Kalifornsky Beach Road area, which is in District 1, Knopp’s old district. However, the code further states that anyone running for assembly or applying for a vacant seat has to have lived in the district for at least 180 days before applying.

He has made it known that he intends to resign but has not done so yet because of delays on the remodel of his new home, he said. However, he said he felt obligated to stay on the assembly for his term as long as he is still in his district.

He said he’s not immediately planning to get involved in politics again.

“I have a law office to run, and it’s just hard to balance work and assembly and family,” he said.

A third member of the assembly plans to offer her resignation mid-January — assembly member Brandii Holmdahl, who represents District 6, including Seward, Cooper Landing, Moose Pass, Hope and part of Sterling east of Otter Trail. Holmdahl was elected in the same October 2015 election that Knopp was and is a first-term assembly representative.

She plans to move her family to Seattle for work this year. Born and raised on the Kenai Peninsula, she said it will be a hard transition to leave Alaska.

Though she has not yet turned in her resignation, she plans to do so in January, she said. Of the issues before the assembly, she said she’d like to see a more definitive conclusion to the invocation issue and to some of the questions about the changes to the sales tax code passed by the assembly in September.

“I’d like to see how some of those final questions get resolved,” she said.

Both Knopp and Holmdahl noted that this number of vacancies at one time on the assembly is unprecedented and arose from unrelated life circumstances. Knopp said he was sorry to see Holmdahl go but understood the circumstance. He also noted that because Borough Mayor Mike Navarre will be term-limited out in October, there will be a new administration incoming to the borough as well. With the term limits in place, no member of the assembly has been on for more than three years, though members Dale Bagley and Paul Fischer have both served terms before.

“I think it is something the community is going to have to watch,” he said.

The assembly will interview the applicants for Knopp’s seat during the committee meetings on Jan. 3, before the regular assembly meeting. The members, excluding Knopp, will vote on the candidates during the regular meeting, and the new member will be sworn in at that meeting.

Those wishing to apply can file a Declaration of Candidacy at the Kenai Peninsula Borough Clerk’s office no later than 5 p.m. The applicants who are selected will serve the remainder of the year until the next regular election in October 2017, at which time they will have to be reelected to remain in the seat.

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

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