We were saddened to report the death of former Kenai city manager Rick Koch earlier this week, and will miss the contributions he had continued to make to the community after he stepped down from the position last year.
Koch, who served as Kenai’s city manager from February 2006 through December 2016, died after his motorcycle veered off the road on the Dalton Highway on Sunday. He was 60.
As city manager, Koch oversaw a number of improvements to the city, such as the new water treatment facility. While not everyone in Kenai agreed with every action taken by the city administration under Koch’s direction, most will agree that he was able to help guide the city forward in his 10 years working at city hall.
As one lasting example of Koch’s management, we’d like to point to the annual dipnet fishery, which is set to open on the north and south beaches at the mouth of the Kenai River in just a couple of weeks. Dipnetting exploded in popularity during Koch’s tenure, and while the state sets the regulations for participation, it offers very little support in managing the thousands of Alaskans who descend on Kenai during the fishery.
Koch never seemed to be much of a fan of the fishery — or at least he wasn’t fond of the headaches that came with the droves of dipnetters on the beaches. And a sure-fire way for a reporter to get under his skin was to suggest that the city makes a profit off the fishery — Koch was always adamant that managing the masses was a break-even proposition for the city.
However, over the years, the city has been able establish a well-managed fishery, with the revenue collected from parking, camping and boat launch fees covering the expenses of staff, equipment and improvements needed to keep things as orderly as possible for three weeks in July, and then return the beach to its previous condition in the first few days of August.
That’s no small feat for a small city like Kenai.
Koch had run unsuccessfully for the state House of Representatives last summer, and threw his hat in the ring when a borough assembly seat became open this past winter. He was on the city Harbor Commission, where his experience would have been invaluable as the city continues to push for a bluff erosion fix. He took on organizing the annual Kenai Central-Soldotna alumni hockey game, and we imagine he would have continued to be active in the community.
That’s what hurts the most when we lose someone unexpectedly — while we can remember them for their accomplishments, we miss all those things they have yet to do.