Q&A: Candidates for mayor share view on management, budget

  • Tuesday, September 26, 2017 8:49pm
  • Opinion

Dale Bagley, Linda Farnsworth Hutchings and Charlie Pierce are running for Borough Mayor.

1. Describe your management style.

Dale Bagley: I like to get all the information I can and then I make my decision. I don’t like to procrastinate and I work hard to have a clean inbox and a clean desktop. I prefer one on one conversation versus talking from the front of the room. I put in long hours either in the office or out and about in the Borough. I believe in having an open door for the employees and the public and when I was Mayor, previously, I had brown bag lunches and informational booths at many area-wide events. I am easy going, but I do know how to delegate responsibilities and manage personnel.

Linda Farnsworth Hutchings: The Borough actually needs a manager not at politician. I am an open door manager – I believe in setting goals and working with department heads to accomplish mutual goals. I like Monday afternoon meetings to review the prior week and prioritize the coming weeks and month goals. I expect my directors and managers to keep me posted if issues arise so that all possible solutions can be explored. I expect a dedicated team working toward a common vision of service and excellence, and put my time in every day. I am a listener and problem solver. Teamwork with common goals is important to me, and making time to celebrate accomplishments and each other is a value to me.

Charlie Pierce: I had the joy of retiring as one of the senior Managers at ENSTAR here in the Kenai Peninsula Borough – I spent 39 years there, which gave me extensive experience and education in leadership and management. I got to work with some of the best people and towns in the state. And, I oversaw multi-million-dollar projects that provided jobs to Alaskans here in the Kenai Peninsula Borough. I believe that individuals should be encouraged to take ownership of job responsibilities. I avoid micro-managing individuals and empower employees to make decisions. I set good examples and believe a person’s attitude is paramount in all outcomes. Having managed successfully, people, projects and process all over the borough (while at ENSTAR), I believe that has prepared me to lead this Borough as the next Mayor.

2. What experience will you draw on in managing the borough’s $80 million budget and 100 employees?

Bagley: Four years as a US Marine taught me to be a leader and a decision maker. Owning my own business has also taught many leadership skills and the value of hard work. I have 5 years on the Soldotna City Council, 7 years on the Assembly and 6 years as Borough Mayor. Also I have served on the Board of Directors of many non-profit organizations including charitable and service-oriented organizations.

Hutchings: My experience as a Chief Financial Officer at Hutchings Chevrolet and Glacier Pontiac dealing with millions of dollars of sales, inventories, payrolls and up to 82 employees I am qualified and up to the challenge of managing the Borough. The Borough actually has 300 employees with an excellent Human Resources Department and qualified department directors who I know are qualified to manage the budget and department staff. I have served on many boards so I understand the dynamic of the Borough Assembly, decision making-processes, scope of influence, and role. I know firsthand the challenge of running a business, and that will add to my support of vital small businesses and business endeavors on the Kenai.

Pierce: It was such a great experience managing hundreds of people and Multi-Million-dollar projects while at ENSTAR. I think the borough needs a leader that already has a proven track record with doing this very thing, and I am the only one with this experience that is running. I will not hire friends or family. I also believe that you surround yourself with people that are VERY smart. So, having a Chief of Staff, Finance Director and other Borough employee’s historical knowledge will be necessary and relied upon. The Borough is in a +4,000,000 deficit right now so this question is very important. And nothing will change if nothing changes.

3. Has the borough struck the right balance between property tax, sales tax and other revenue sources? Are there changes you would propose?

Bagley: The Kenai Peninsula Borough’s spending has grown at less than 2% per year for the last 10 years. Unfortunately due to some ballot initiatives and reduction in state revenue sharing we have less revenue and we are going to have to find cuts and look at some sort of revenue increase. Currently we do have a diversified tax base, which is positive and gives us options.

Hutchings: The right mix of revenue sources will be met if the increase to the sales tax cap is approved. On the up side we are experiencing an increase in sales tax revenue and expect to see an increase in the cottage industries with the implementation of a more robust internet technology – this is exciting news. Kenai Peninsula Development District along with the input that is being received on the Comprehensive Plane will bring new opportunities for economic growth to the borough which in turn will increase revenues to the Borough. Our continued support of Kenai Peninsula Tourism and Marketing is essential to the growth of the borough. Many of the new people that come to fish and enjoy the beauty of the Kenai Peninsula are looking for a recreational home – this is our opportunity to showcase the Kenai Peninsula Borough communities.

Pierce: I’d propose to find cost savings before proposing any new taxation. I don’t believe we have struck the right balance when evaluating the current taxation and revenues for the Borough. We are currently deficit spending in our 2017, budget. My abilities to prepare budgets and my Utility Operations experience will serve the Borough well. I also feel that just talking about taxing more is not the right answer. When I am mayor I am going to develop a task force to bring and attract more business to call the Kenai Peninsula their home. This produces jobs and economic growth without just taxing everyone more.

4. If elected, are there issues you feel require immediate attention?

Bagley: The budget deficit is the biggest issue that we are going to have to deal with and in late November, next year’s budget process begins so it will be the first thing we will be working on. The Borough does the maintenance of the schools and I would really like to look at LED lights as well as motion detectors for school lighting and air handling systems. These are all things that can be worked on to reduce funding in the future to make utility cost more efficient. Also since LED lights last for up to 15 years, there will be a lot of personnel time saved on changing out light bulbs.

Hutchings: Balancing the budget with revenues and expenditures will be my first priority. To address the shortfalls of the borough budget I would drill down in to the line items in the budget with the department heads to see if there are efficiencies that can be achieved without jeopardizing services. I would review our revenue sources and have in depth discussions with our borough residents and Assembly as to the best way forward so that we can continue to encourage new business and growth in our borough.

Pierce: Yes, I will work to develop a spending, taxation and revenue plan that is in balance. I’ll develop employee succession plans, as well as, operating and capital spending plans. We need to plan for our future and developing good plans assist in making better daily decisions.

I also want to make sure that the staff of the borough feel equipped and empowered to do their jobs to the best of their ability. So, we will look into making sure this happens right out the gate.

5. Education makes up the largest portion of the borough budget. What will be your approach to funding the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District?

Bagley: Most Boroughs, in Alaska, do not fund their school districts to the cap, but we have funded ours to the cap more often than not over the years. Two years ago we did fund to the cap, but did not in this year’s budget even though we did pay 1.5 million more to the School District than the previous year. As Mayor I will coordinate with the school district on funding. The Kenai Peninsula Borough does maintain the schools and I will be looking at everything I can to reduce maintenance cost while also making maintenance as efficient as possible to the School District and Principals.

Hutchings: The school district has struggled to get full funding in the past few years and I am committed to finding a way to fully fund education within the borough budget. One of my concerns is better communication between the district and the borough and the communities as to ensure everybody understanding the importance of funding education. Schools are extremely important and I am impressed with the school district’s ability to explore innovative ways to teach our children. Our district is solid and pioneering education strategies to meet the needs of children to prepare them for their future. We have a diverse district of 44 schools, with one room schools, across the water schools, charter schools, and neighborhood schools. Our children are our future and I am determined that all of our children have a world class education.

Pierce: I’m a father of 5 boys and a grandfather of 10. So, this really hits home to me. I want to ensure that my grandkids have a successful education and experience with their school.

I also want to hear from the principals directly and teachers as well. That is why I will host round tables once a quarter to hear the needs, obstacles and successes of what is going on — and take action to solve them.

The funding plans need to start early and continue throughout the year. The Borough Administration and the District Administration both have different challenges to consider. You cannot fix a problem or challenges without truly understanding the problem. We should be forward funding education. What we currently do, does not work well. Balancing budgets must be a priority and balancing the needs of education has to be a high priority as well. I am also committed to looking alternative ways to help fund things.

There are grants out there for everything and we will have a special person dedicated to tracking down every grant we can get.

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