Members of the Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly participate in a meeting on Tuesday, April 5, 2022, in Soldotna, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)

Members of the Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly participate in a meeting on Tuesday, April 5, 2022, in Soldotna, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)

Tautfest appointed to borough planning commission

Her appointment caps a monthslong process to fill the vacancy

Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly members Tuesday filled the City of Soldotna’s seat on the borough’s planning commission, capping a monthslong back-and-forth that also resulted in changes to the commission’s appointment process.

Charlene Tautfest will represent the City of Soldotna on the 14-member commission, which is responsible generally for the “systematic development and betterment” of the borough. The commission also has the approval and rejection authority over plots of land and can investigate public buildings or structures.

Tautfest is the president of the Soldotna Rotary Club and has previously served on the Soldotna Planning and Zoning Commission, according to her application for the seat. In that application, Tautfest describes herself as “dependable” and “a quick learner” who works “well under pressure.”

Tautfest’s appointment marks the end of almost a year’s worth of efforts to fill the City of Soldotna’s seat on the body, which became vacant last June. Soldotna City Council member Linda Farnsworth-Hutchings was the only person to apply for the vacancy the first time the seat was advertised, and was subsequently recommended for the position four times by her fellow council members.

Kenai Peninsula Borough Mayor Charlie Pierce has pushed back against the city throughout the process, first claiming that the city did not follow Alaska state statute when it first forwarded Farnsworth-Hutchings’ name — state law requires a “list of recommendations” to be forwarded.

Pierce went on to suggest that insufficient advertising on the part of the city could explain low applicant turnout in continued advertisements for the vacancy. The mayor at one point said he would give Soldotna’s seat to Seldovia if they did not send more candidates and stated in a letter to Soldotna Mayor Paul Whitney that he would “not be appointing” Farnsworth-Hutchings, who challenged Pierce in the 2017 and 2020 borough mayoral races, to the commission.

Early feuds between Pierce and the City of Soldotna prompted the Kenai Peninsula Borough assembly to approve changes to the planning commission appointment process. Under changes approved in December, commission membership was bumped from 11 to 14 members, with each first-class and home-rule city guaranteed a seat. Previously, the five municipalities rotated among four seats. Also, the borough was given the authority to advertise for cities’ vacancies and a “list” was defined to be “at least one applicant.”

Assembly member Tyson Cox, who represents Soldotna on the borough assembly, praised Taufest’s appointment during a Tuesday meeting of the assembly’s policies and procedures committee.

“I’m glad there could be some sort of conclusion to that so … we can have some representation on the planning commission,” Cox said.

“I’ll ditto that,” Pierce replied.

Tautfest’s term will expire on July 31, 2024.

Reach reporter Ashlyn O’Hara at ashlyn.ohara@peninsulaclarion.com.

More in News

A bucket of recently caught sockeye salmon rests on the sand while anglers seek to fill it further at the mouth of the Kasilof River on Monday, June 26, 2023, in Kasilof, Alaska. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)
Dipnetting in Kasilof opens Tuesday

Dipnetting will be allowed at all times until Aug. 7

The Kasilof River is seen from the Kasilof River Recreation Area, July 30, 2019, in Kasilof, Alaska. (Photo by Erin Thompson/Peninsula Clarion)
Fish and Game restricts bait on Kasilof, Ninilchik Rivers

The use of bait on the rivers will begin Friday and extend to July 15 in Ninilchik, July 31 in Kasilof

A man fishes in the Kenai River on July 16, 2018, in Soldotna, Alaska. (Peninsula Clarion/file)
Slow sockeye fishing on Kenai, Russian Rivers

Northern Kenai Fishing Report for June 20

Alaska Department of Fish and Game logo. (Graphic by Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)
Bag limits doubled for sockeye salmon in Resurrection Bay

The increase is effective from June 21 to July 31

Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion
Girl Scout Troop 210, which includes Caitlyn Eskelin, Emma Hindman, Kadie Newkirk and Lyberty Stockman, present their “Bucket Trees” to a panel of judges in the 34th Annual Caring for the Kenai Competition at Kenai Central High School on Thursday, April 18.
Caring for the Kenai winners receive EPA award

Winning team of the 34th annual Caring for the Kenai was selected for the President’s Environmental Youth Award

Norm Blakely speaks to the Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly in Soldotna, Alaska, on Tuesday, June 18, 2024. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)
Assembly approves resolution guiding efforts to increase voter turnout

The Voter Turnout Working Group was established to explore options and ideas aimed at increasing voter participation

Alaska State Troopers logo.
Update: Bodies of 2 men retrieved from submerged plane in wake of reported Moose Pass crash

A pair of hikers witnessed and reported the crash around 2 p.m. on Tuesday, trooper say

Alaska Department of Transportation Commissioner Ryan Anderson speaks during a town hall meeting on the use of brine on Kenai Peninsula roads, in the Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly Chambers in Soldotna, Alaska, on Monday, June 17, 2024. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)
Brine use reduced by 69% this winter, further changes possible

Department of Transportation holds town hall to report back on winter brine use, collect feedback

Sockeye salmon are gathered together at a test site for selective harvest setnet gear in Kenai, Alaska, on Tuesday, July 25, 2023. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)
Commercial fishing with dipnets to see 1st opening Thursday

Commercial fishing with dipnets will be allowed for their first opening on… Continue reading

Most Read