Homer Alaska - News

Story last updated at 5:11 PM on Wednesday, August 24, 2011

KPB mayoral candidates talk to Homer

By Michael Armstrong
Staff Writer


Photo by Michael Armstrong

Dale Bagley, left, speaks at a Kachemak Board of Realtors meeting last Wednesday as other Kenai Peninsula Borough mayoral candidates listen. From left to right are Bagley, Debbie Brown, Mike Navarre, Tim O'Brien, Fred Sturman and Gary Superman.

Barely a day after the filing period ended, Homer got a first look — at least as a group — of the six candidates for Kenai Peninsula Borough mayor. At the Aug. 17 forum, sponsored by the Kachemak Board of Realtors, the five men and one woman, all from the central peninsula, introduced themselves and spoke about what each saw as the main issues in the election.

Running are Dale Bagley of Soldotna, Debbie Holle Brown of Soldotna, Mike Navarre of Kenai, Tim O'Brien of Nikiski, Fred Sturman of Soldotna and Gary Superman of Nikiski. While new to Homer as a group, many of them are known individually through prior government service and political activisim.

Ron Long of Seward withdrew from the race earlier when Navarre entered, citing similarities in his and Navarre's philosophies and a desire not to split the vote. The current mayor, David R. Carey, will not be running for re-election.

Bagley introduced himself by saying, "I think we need better economic development. Better government is what I'm about."

A graduate of Soldotna High School, Bagley served in the U.S. Marine Corps from 1983-1987. From November 1999-November 2005, Bagley served as the borough mayor. In 1999, Bagley won in a run-off against Navarre. In 2002, he won in a race against Ken Lancaster. He was on the Soldotna City Council from 1994-1995, on the KPB assembly from 1995-1998 and returned to the Soldotna City Council for 2009-2011. He and his wife, Debbie, have owned Redoubt Realty in Soldotna since 2004.

The only candidate who has lived full time in Homer, Brown played up her lower peninsula connections. She came to Homer from Minnesota as a teenager and began her family here. She commercial fished from 1970-1990 and for one year lived in Port Graham. Brown has a bachelor's degree in education from the University of Alaska Anchorage, was the borough-wide manager for the American Red Cross, served on the borough planning commission from 1990-1995, on the KPB assembly from 1995-1998 and on the KPB school board from 2003-2008.

"I understand Homer and the way people think here," she said. "I got my sea legs here. ... Even though I grew up on the farm, little did I know I would be about on the sea."

Navarre first ran for public office when he was 21, but was elected to the Alaska Legislature when he was 28. He served in the Legislature for 12 years before leaving to run for borough mayor. He served a three-year term as mayor, losing his bid for re-election to Bagley in 1999.

"My approach to government and governing is to be responsible," Navarre said. "You try to make a determination based on what's best in the public interest. ... I'll build a good team with residents all across the borough marked by good responsible fiscal management."

Tim O'Brien of Nikiski is the political newcomer in the group. He said he decided to run at the urging of friends.

"I'm worried about the future of my children and grandchildren as well as yours," he said. "There's too much special interest in the state ... the opportunities I had are gone."

O'Brien said he would offer a new perspective in the borough.

"I will be a one-eighty. I will change the attitude of the borough," he said. "I will try to get the harmony back in the borough and the assembly."

Sturman also has some Homer experience. For almost 10 years he ran a charter boat out of Homer, the Puffin Lady, before selling it to Homer Ocean Charters. He moved to the peninsula in 1965, Sturman worked in the oil industry, has been a general contractor and commercial fished for salmon on Cook Inlet beginning in 1986.

This is Sturman's second campaign for borough mayor. The Soldotna resident threw his hat in the ring six years ago, the year John Williams won the race in the run-off against John Torgerson.

"I think the borough should be run more like a business instead of what it is," Sturman said.

He advocates tapping into solid waste and fish waste for new sources of energy, burning waste to generate power and fish waste for biodiesel.

Superman served on the Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly for a total of four terms, beginning 1989-1992, returning in 2001, and re-elected in 2004 and 2007. In 2004-2005, he was assembly president. In 2005, he ran for borough mayor and came in third, taking 15.46 percent of the vote. Currently, Superman serves as president of Kenai Peninsula CHARR — Cabaret, Hotel, Restaurant and Retailers Association — and is a member of Alaska CHARR's board of directors.

"What separates myself from the rest of the candidates? I like to listen to everybody. Am I going to please everybody? No," he said. "I've been classified as a kind of nonconformist, maybe a maverick sometimes. I think my voting record will prove that out."

When asked about the main issues in the election, many cited Homer's hope for a natural gas line from Anchor Point to Homer.

Superman said the gas line is the most important issue for Homer. The city should keep trying for a legislative grant. Another big issue is the Homer solid waste facility.

Sturman agreed. Fish waste is another problem, he said. "I believe our assessment department needs to be looked over, and looked hard," he said.

While mill rates haven't increased, assessments have. "I'm paying as much now as I did 10 years ago," he said.

O'Brien said he thought availability of land is a big issue.

"Your children and your grandchildren deserve the right to own a piece of property," he said.

Navarre also agreed the gas line is an issue.

"I was down at Concert on the Lawn and I heard about the gas line," he said.

When Navarre did projections on opening a business in Homer, one thing he said he grossly underestimated was energy costs.

"I know energy costs are high," he said.

Health care also is a concern, particularly with borough supported hospitals.

"It permeates in every single thing we do," he said. "What we need to do is figure out how hospitals play into the overall picture of health care and health care costs."

Brown also agreed that the gas line was an issue. She phrased it in terms of energy costs.

"You have to have affordable energy for any community to have healthy, prosperous communities," she said. "I will fight for affordable energy in our homes and businesses in a practical sense, and not for Enstar."

The proposed halibut catch sharing plan also is a big concern of hers, she said. "This is going to affect the commercial fishermen and the charter boats."

Bagley said the condition of the Homer High School track is a concern of his.

"If it's not resolved before Oct. 4, it will definitely be a priority of mine," he said.

Speaking to the Realtors at the meeting, Bagley said he would oppose efforts like what was proposed in the Matanuska-Susitna Borough to put a transfer tax on sales of real property.

"I will do what I can to keep that from happening," he said.

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