Willy Dunne seeks second Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly term

Editor’s note: This article has been updated to clarify that Willy Dunne’s opinion piece he sought to run in local newspapers was about an ordinance he proposed to do away with the borough’s invocation policy.

Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly member Willy Dunne is running for a second term in office.

He’s running for a three-year term on the District 9 seat, which covers the Southern Kenai Peninsula. A retired biologist and mariner, Dunne has lived in Fritz Creek for 31 years and has been an Alaska resident for the same amount of time.

He faces Homer area homesteader and business owner Troy Jones, who is running for the same public office.

Dunne said he chose to run for re-election because there’s still a lot of important work to be done.

“I’ve gotten to work now with two different mayors,” Dunne said, “And with our current mayor I see the need to be very closely involved with the budget. There’s a lot of pressure to cut services, but I think a lot of those services are critical to the residents. So we’ll need to watch that closely.”

Dunne said the problem is that the borough has been dipping into its savings to pay the bills, which he said is not sustainable.

“We’re getting close to the minimum level of savings right now,” he said. “The mayor, very early in his term, came to the assembly and showed us a graph, and said if we do not increase revenues we will … spend our savings. So as much as he wants to cut the budget and I want to keep a close eye on the budget and not let it get out of control, it’s clear that with increased expenses, inflation, the growing population that needs services, we need to somehow come up with some increased revenue.”

Supporting schools and education is Dunne’s other top priority, he said. He said he was disappointed with Borough Mayor Charlie Pierce’s veto this past budget cycle that eliminated $652,000 that would have been used by the Kenai Peninsula Borough School district for school safety and counseling.

“I believe that education is one of the best investments we can make as a society,” Dunne said.

“At the 11th hour the mayor vetoed $600,000 from the school budget, which was kind of a blow to the process, I thought,” he continued.

When asked what he is most proud of accomplishing over his previous term, Dunne said it’s the work he’s been able to do with the smaller communities in the district, like the Russian Old Believer villages and villages across Kachemak Bay. He spoke about the process to get Homer’s South Peninsula Athletic and Recreation Complex (SPARC) approved and built.

“That was very rewarding, to be able to help that process along,” he said. “Then working with people in Seldovia to help get a community garden going, and you know, possibly using borough property for that. So the small community, public-private partnerships. Working with local groups to help improve our community.”

Dunne was the subject of some controversy when he sued the borough over a free speech issue. He claimed the borough had originally sought to keep him from publishing an opinion piece in local newspapers about an ordinance he proposed to get rid of the borough’s controversial invocation policy. The borough was involved in a lawsuit over the policy at the time.

An attorney for the borough refuted that claim.

Dunne was eventually allowed to run the opinion piece, the case was dismissed with prejudice, and the borough paid $10,000 to Dunne’s attorney for fees.

An image posted to the “Alaska district 31 alert” Facebook page states the lawsuit cost the borough $30,000. It goes on to read: “Time for Dunne to be DONE. Time to elect Troy Jones to Assembly District 9.” Text on the image says it was paid for by Alaska Republican Party District 31.

Reach Megan Pacer at mpacer@homernews.com.