Borough Mayor Charlie Pierce’s administration kicked off Monday with a packed room, enough cake to go around and a note of hopeful positivity.
Pierce took his oath of office as mayor of the Kenai Peninsula Borough before a crowd of about 50 at the assembly chambers in the George A. Navarre Borough Administration Building on Monday. He officially started his job as the borough’s top official Monday morning, but had spent part of last week meeting with outgoing mayor Mike Navarre to facilitate the transition between administrations.
Pierce told the crowd gathered that he was grateful for their support and that he and his chief of staff, Nikiski resident John Quick, are ready to get started on the borough’s issues. He kept his language positive throughout his comments.
“Hopefully at the end of the day we’ll leave this borough in a better position than we found it in,” he said.
Pierce won the mayor’s seat in the Oct. 24 runoff election. He defeated opponent Linda Hutchings by 45 votes — 50.3 percent for Pierce to 47.7 percent for Hutchings.
That divide is something they’re conscious of, Quick said. Pierce’s administration is going forward with a positive message to bring together borough residents and the desire to serve all Kenai Peninsula residents, regardless of who they voted for, he said
“We still need to serve (everyone),” he said. “I would say that Charlie and I are looking forward to serving all residents of the Kenai Peninsula Borough.”
Quick is a newcomer to public service. A longtime businessman, he ran his own marketing consultation firm, Empire Consulting, and traveled throughout the U.S. doing marketing work. He said he is looking forward to working with Pierce on how to solve the borough’s impending budget issue — a $4 million spending deficit, which was the central debate throughout the election campaign.
“We have some really good ideas on (solving the budget problem), and we’ll be keeping the public informed on that,” he said.
Both Pierce and Quick said they appreciated spending time with Navarre to get a handle on the borough’s various operations and the ability to consult with Navarre’s outgoing chief of staff Larry Persily.
Navarre departed Sunday for Juneau to start his new job Monday as the commissioner of the Alaska Department Commerce, Community and Economic Development. As commissioner, he will oversee a large number of state functions relevant to the peninsula, including community revenue sharing, business licensing, alcohol and marijuana licensing and the Local Boundary Commission staff. Pierce said he was glad to have Navarre available to help him as he gets started at the borough and to advocate for the peninsula in Juneau.
He and Quick started off their morning Monday with a staff meeting, where Quick said “there was a lot of laughter.” Pierce said he plans to go around the buildings and meet all the borough employees as well.
The attendees at the swearing in were mixed members of the public, elected officials and borough employees. Dorothy Denison, who said she helped some with Pierce’s campaign, said she appreciated the tone of Pierce’s comments to keep things positive and help bring borough residents together.
“I think he’s starting that off on the right track,” she said.
At the end of the ceremony, Pierce signed his certificate of office amid applause and offered one final comment:
“Let’s make something happen.”