Homer Alaska - News

Story last updated at 1:04 PM on Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Borough Assembly District 9
    Challenger: Jesse Clutts

Candidate wanted to give voters a choice between different viewpoints

By Michael Armstrong
Staff Writer

In the 2009 Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly election, Jesse Clutts, Tom Clark and Mako Haggerty all ran for the seat formerly held by Assembly member Millie Martin. Haggerty won and is running for re-election with Clutts challenging him. That doesn't mean Clutts has been ready to jump back in the race, the Anchor Point business owner said.

"It's not just something I've been waiting to do for three years," Clutts said.

Far from it, actually. Clutts waited until almost the last minute to file for office.

Jesse Clutts


Photo provided

Jesse R. Clutts

Residence: Anchor Point

Age: 40

Spouse: Jennifer

Children: Rayann, John, Luke, Rachel, Don

Occupation: Manager, owner, Anchor River Inn

Length of residency In Alaska: 35 years

Education: Washington State University (attended three years); U.S. Army AMEDD Center and School

Political and government experience: Anchor Point Advisory Planning Commission, 1997-99

Business and professional positions: Anchor River Inn manager and owner; Sergeant, U.S. Army, Preventive Medicine and Health Physics, 2003-2007

Service organizations membership: Economic Development District board member, 2011-present; Anchor Point Chamber of Commerce, former director and president

Email: jesse@anchorriverinn.com

"I would have like to have seen some people get in there and offer a challenge to Mako," he said. "I decided to go ahead and give voters a choice between two different candidates, a little bit different view."

Raised in Alaska and a resident of the lower Kenai Peninsula since 1976, Clutts, now 40, left Alaska to serve in the U.S. Army. Clutts, then 30, joined the military after the events of Sept. 11, 2001, advancing to sergeant in his four years of service. He returned with his wife of 19 years, Jennifer, and their children after his parents, Bob and Simone Clutts, didn't have any luck selling their business, the Anchor River Inn. Jesse and Jennifer Clutts bought the Anchor River Inn, allowing his parents to retire and spend winters in Florida.

"We came back because my parents weren't able to run the business and because of their age," Clutts said. "To be able to give that service to your parents who sacrificed so much to bring you up, to turn that around later in life and do something for them — I'm proud to be able to do that."

The Army gave him leadership and training that helped him to take over the family business, Clutts said.

Since returning to Anchor Point, Clutts has improved on the business that includes a restaurant, bar, motel and convenience store. When natural gas came to the corner of the Sterling Highway and Old Sterling Highway across from the Anchor River Inn, Clutts connected to the line ending at Chapman School and retrofitted his business to take advantage of cheaper natural gas — an investment that has saved him thousands of dollars a month and paid for itself in a year, he said.

Anyone looking for a spirited campaign between Clutts and Haggerty won't get it. Clutts said he feels as uncomfortable speaking about Haggerty's weaknesses as he does about his own strengths. The main difference Clutts sees between him and Haggerty is one of political perspective.

"I think we probably disagree philosophically on some things," Clutts said. "He's probably more environmental than I tend to be. I would probably fall more toward development of our resources — not at the expense of our environment — trying to achieve that balance, maybe more in favor of development where he would be in favor of not doing something that would hurt."

For example, Clutts mentioned Haggerty's support of an anadromous stream ordinance that applies the same kinds of protection to small salmon streams as it does to the Kenai River. Clutts said he doesn't know if he would have voted for or against the ordinance if he had been on the assembly, but it does raise the issue of the borough getting involved in areas that the state and federal governments also are concerned.

"I think the borough ought to stick to what the borough was formed to do, which is provide the schools and solid waste," he said. "I'm not looking at getting onto the assembly and expanding the role of the borough, but keeping it in its rightful spot and not expanding."

That's about the only issue Clutts said he sees in this election.

"I don't want to see the borough necessarily branching out into things," he said. "I want it to focus on the basics it has."

One issue he hears from voters is how when the assessor visits and new assessments come in, the value jumps up, sometimes dramatically and not because of improvements.

"That's a problem for a lot of people who don't have time to budget for these changes," Clutts said.

He'd favor some change in the system that would temper the amount people have to pay.

All in all, though, there's no big issue driving the election like previous years when term limits was on the ballot.

"I don't expect there to be a huge turnout," Clutts said. "There's nothing to get fired up about. I'm not one to create a stir."

Clutts said he did see one difference between him and Haggerty. He noted that Haggerty was a member of the Sea Party group that gathered signatures for Ballot Measure 2, the Coastal Zone Management Plan initiative. As part of the unsuccessful campaign last month for the measure, Haggerty appeared in a photograph apparently naked and holding a Vote 2 sign in front of him.

"I think I have a better build," Clutts said, joking, "But you'll never see without my shirt on, unless you follow me to the beach in Hawaii."

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