Homer Alaska - News

Story last updated at 4:39 PM on Wednesday, April 11, 2012

New council member offers 'youthful perspective'


Photo by Michael Armstrong

Homer City Council member Beauregard Burgess

In a process more like a job interview than an election, the Homer City Council on Monday night had three strong choices in appointing a council member to the seat vacated by Kevin Hogan:

• Beauregard Burgess, a young entrepreneur with two businesses, including installing wind energy turbines;

• Sharon Minsch, a real estate agent with experience in city government, including chairing the Homer Advisory Planning Commission; and

• Don Stead, a Homer Electric Association engineer with a business background.

In two rounds of voting, on the second ballot the council in a 3-2 secret vote chose Burgess over Minsch. Stead received one vote in the first round and Burgess and Minsch two votes each. Although most council actions take four votes to pass, in the matter of appointing council members, a simple majority of three votes is required.

Rearranging the agenda, the council moved the resolution electing a new member to the top so the winner could start that night. After Burgess was elected, city clerk Jo Johnson promptly swore him in, and he took his seat next to council member Barbara Howard. Burgess' first vote was in favor of an amendment by council member David Lewis to a proposed new sign ordinance that would allow sandwich board signs year round. Deadlocked in a 3-3 tie, Mayor James Hornaday voted yes for the change (see related story, page 1).

Each candidate had five minutes at the Committee of the Whole meeting to make their pitch. Minsch had prepared a detailed resume and let that stand as her application. Burgess submitted a short application but made a longer presentation.

"I love Homer. I love its quality of place and its sense of community that actively creates," Burgess told the council.

Owner of Homer Bookkeepers, an accounting firm, and Southern Exposure, an excavation company that installs driveways, landscaping and wind energy towers, Burgess cited his small business experience as helping him to understand city budgets.

"The path that money takes in and out of Homer is something I work with everyday," he said.

At age 26, Burgess presented his youth as an asset. The city charter encourages the council to seek diversity in commissions and committees, he said.

"I imagine it's not often an individual under 40 offers his experience," Burgess told the council.

In his application, he wrote, "A youthful perspective, tempered by the realities of real life, but still possessing a desire to effect meaningful and farsighted development and change, never hurts."

Burgess makes his home on Diamond Creek Place, a neighborhood on the edge of city limits off West Hill Road. That location gives him another unique perspective, he said.

"I wonder how many council members don't have running water in their homes," Burgess told the council.

Answering council member Bryan Zak's question about his view on the controversial city sewer and water rates, Burgess expanded on that experience.

"I actually don't own and live on any properties served by sewer and water. It feels like the damage has been done," he said about the new rates. "The only criticism I can offer is the lack of foresight and the shock that came to be."

Hogan resigned his seat after expressing his frustration in trying to get the sewer and water rates changed. Many apartment owners and residents had protested a new $45 per unit service charge imposed as part of a new rate structure that went into effect this year. Previously, the service charge had been per account or building.

Hogan also said he planned to sue the city and felt that as a plaintiff against the city he could not serve on the council. Hogan filed a suit this week, but on the advice of his lawyer did not want to comment on the nature of the suit, he said. As of Wednesday the suit had not yet been recorded or filed at the Homer Courthouse.

The term of Hogan's former seat expires this October with the next city election. Burgess will serve the remainder of that seat's term and will have to stand for election to the three-year seat if he wishes to remain on the city council.

Michael Armstrong can be reached at michael.armstrong@homernews.com.