Burgess: Cites gasline buildout as biggest achievement on council
With Homer City Council member Francie Roberts not running for re-election, council member Beauregard Burgess is the only incumbent in the two-seat race. Appointed in April 2012 and then elected that fall to a 3-year term, he’s also the only candidate who has run for political office.
Burgess, 30, at first considered not running. He got busier with some new enterprises and said his family supported him not going for a second full term. Burgess asked other people he knew if they would be interested in running.
At the same time, people urged him to run again, including other council members and city staff. With no one else at the time running, Burgess decided to run, among the first to submit paperwork along with candidates Bob Howard and Joni Wise.
“I guess if no one else is going to do it and people want me to, I’m going to do it again,” he said.
Now a 10-year Alaskan, Burgess moved to Homer nine years ago. The son of two scientists and two Southerners, his parents named him after Pierre Gustavo Toutant Beauregard, the Confederate general who fired the first shot on Fort Sumter, S.C., that started the Civil War. Burgess grew up in Tucson, Ariz., where his father worked as the designer of the dryland ecology in Biosphere II, an ambitious project to build a working ecosystem separate from the planet.
Since being elected in 2012, he’s seen some changes in his life. With his father, Tony Burgess, he built and moved into a multi-generational house off Southslope Drive in the East Hill Road area. Burgess owns and manages Southern Exposure LLC, a construction, excavation and forestry company; Homer Bookkeepers; and, a new venture, the member-owned farm company, Blood Sweat and Food Farms. Blood Sweat and Food grows food traditionally as well through aquaponics, food grown in a soil medium connected to an aquarium where fish fertilize plants and plants filter water for fish.
“Mostly we’re trying to go for more sustainable, local products: compost, vegetables, pork meat, Internet communications,” Burgess said.
New ventures include raising heritage hogs. He also has been scaling up a land clearing business, doing things like chipping slash like alder trees, composting slash, milling trees and cutting firewood.
“We’re basically trying to create an alternative to bulldoze and build, the slash-pile approach to land clearing,” Burgess said.
That sometimes has meant Burgess has to recuse himself from votes on city contracts. For example, he was a subcontractor on the Homer Public Library and Town Center vegetation reduction projects, a plan to open up those areas by clearing out some scrub and reduce vagrancy and crime. Burgess said he will step away from the table for any vote on a project where he filed to get plans.
On the council, Burgess has become known for speaking his mind and is not shy about engaging citizens.
“I think if you do a good job on the city council, and you’re willing to take a position on issues, be thoughtful and articulate and justify your position, there is a 100-percent chance people will disagree with you,” he said. “People deserve to know where you stand and why.”
Burgess made a name for himself by strongly advocating an entire build-out of the Homer Natural Gas Assessment District, bringing natural gas to almost every lot in the city. He calls that his biggest achievement on the council.
“It’s so much more easy to collectively invest in infrastructure than piece-meal it out,” he said.
Like other candidates, Burgess has said he supports core services like police and fire protection, but he also said the city has failed to fund another aspect of government: depreciation.
“Homer is already functioning, not balancing its budget,” he said. “The need to fund things (out of the general fund) like Public Works trucks and ambulances is evidence of the fact we’re not balancing the budget already.”
Unlike Roberts, who at the last election said she would not run again in three years, Burgess said he didn’t know if he would run for a third term in 2018.
“I have no idea. My current term might be my last term,” he said.
Calling himself a pragmatist, Burgess said his goal isn’t to further his political aspirations, but to see people sitting on the council who will make good decisions.
“There are people who if elected I could pass the baton to. I could do more lucrative things, more fun things,” Burgess said. “There’s nothing fun about being on city council.”