Kenai Peninsula Borough Mayor Mike Navarre is no stranger to campaigns. All told, this is his tenth, including his years in the Alaska State Legislature from 1985-1996 and as the Kenai Peninsula Borough mayor from 1996-1999 and 2011 until the present.
“I have lots of experience and I have established lots of contacts … and there’s some things I want to try to focus on,” said Navarre of his decision to run for re-election.
Topping his borough-wide list are changes that may result from Nikiski being considered as the site of an LNG plant.
“A lot will take place in the next three years in terms of planning and changes to the tax structure, possibly at the state level. I want to play a part in that,” said Navarre.
Health care is next on his list of priorities.
“Obama’s Affordable Care Act did not fix things. It just made a dysfunctional system marginally better, made small tweaks to it. There are a lot of things that still have to change,” said Navarre.
Navarre recognizes the need to stay in contact with the borough’s 55,400 residents (according to the 2010 census), spread across 24,000 square miles. One way to do that is by working with local governments.
“Let Homer make the determination about what it would like for Homer. Then, as mayor, I try to help where I can,” said Navarre, noting the natural gas pipeline from Anchor Point to Homer as an example. Navarre supported a loan of $12.7 million from the borough to the city of Homer to help fund the project.
He gathers input about community needs through the community revenue sharing program in the unincorporated areas and the borough’s 13 services areas, including Anchor Point Fire and Emergency, Kachemak Emergency, Seldovia Recreational and South Peninsula Hospital service areas on the southern peninsula.
Community dialogues and technology also help Navarre stay in touch with borough residents.
“In today’s world, you have email, social networking,” said Navarre, who has used email newsletters to get “broad distribution about what’s happening in the borough.”
He maintains an “open door policy,” giving out his cell phone number and email address regularly.
“People can call me on my cell or at work,” he said. “My door is literally an open door. People come into my office at the borough a lot. … I run into people at community meetings, at the grocery store who recognize me and want to tell me about road problems, frustrations with schools, any number of things they have on their mind.”
Flooding in Anchor Point, as well as along K-Beach and in Seward, is an issue Navarre has had to address as mayor. The problem was caused by piece meal development over the years, “with no real overview of how a new road might affect other roads that are already existing and where water drains to,” said Navarre.
In Anchor Point, the borough “installed some culverts to equalize water or move it to somewhere it would not have an impact to protect the road infrastructure,” said Navarre
Flood damage along Tall Tree Avenue and the bridge across Stariski Creek that exists on Tall Tree occurred outside the borough road service area, on land not owned by the borough.
“It was one of those things that nobody had responsibility for,” said Navarre, who asked for immediate assistance from Hilcorp, an oil and natural gas company that works in the area. “We also went to the Legislature and got some funding which we just accepted in order to make sure that the erosion control on the bridge and the road up to the bridge are done, and the Road Service Area has agreed to accept it.”
Providing adequate school facilities for the head-of-the-bay communities of Kachemak Selo, Razdolna and Voznesenka is another area Navarre has worked on. A new building for Kachemak Selo is currently in the design stage.
“We’re trying to get on the list for state funding,” said Navarre. “If we do, hopefully we’ll get a grant from the state. If not, we’ll have to bond for it and the people of the borough will have to say yes and we’ll have to make a case for it.”
In August, Navarre vetoed the borough assembly effort to ask voter approval of a 3 percent borough-wide bed tax to help fund marketing efforts currently done by the Kenai Peninsula Tourism Marketing Council. Although he initially supported it, the more Navarre learned about the tax and its wide-spread opposition in areas like Homer, the more he questioned it for the borough.
Adding it all up —years in office and familiarity with the peninsula — Navarre said what makes him the right candidate for Kenai Peninsula Borough mayor is “really the experience. … I’ve established a lot of contacts at the state, national and local levels because I’ve lived in the community continuously for the last 57 years,” said Navarre. “I think I have clearly the broadest knowledge about borough government and state government because it takes a long time to establish relationships.”
McKibben Jackinsky can be reached at email@example.com.