Because the work they do is so important and we know so little about that work, I’ve begun a series of Q&As with mayors across the state, which I’ll be posting periodically as they roll in. Kenai Peninsula Borough Mayor Mike
Navarre kicks off the series. Navarre started his political career in 1984 when he was elected as a Democrat to the Alaska House of Representatives. He kept that seat until 1996, when he was elected mayor of the Kenai Borough and served one term. He was later elected to his current term. He has served as chair of the Governor’s Oil and Gas Policy Council and president of the Alaskan Conference of Mayors. He serves on numerous community and civic boards. He was born in 1956, is single and graduated from Eastern Washington University.
Q: What is the biggest challenge you face as mayor of the Kenai Borough?
A: Probably time management. The Kenai Peninsula Borough (KPB) is a large area with a relatively small population (55,000). It’s a strong mayor structure, so the mayor is the full time manager. In addition to the financial and administrative responsibilities, there is always an additional demand for attendance at community events and meetings.
Q: Last year, there was some talk about you running for governor. Why did you decide not to run?
A: A variety of reasons but primarily because the demands and responsibilities of the mayor’s job are such that I could not manage both at the same time.
Q: Do you support SB 21 or support repeal and why?
A: Tough question to answer but I’ll give it my best shot… I’m not sure, yet, because I was part of the legislative process for 12 years and I trust the process – with some reservations, of course. I tried to follow and evaluate SB21 as it was progressing through the legislature but simply did not have the time to devote to fully understand what is a complex change in the tax structure. In short, I wasn’t there so it’s tough for me to judge. I think changes to ACES, particularly the progressivity component, were necessary; but, I’m concerned that the wholesale changes in SB21 may be too great.
Q: Nikiski appears to have been selected to be the terminus of the state’s new proposed gas pipeline. What impact do you see this having on your borough?
A: The potential impacts will be huge. We will see our population increase with a big spike during construction and more modest long term increase, both of which will create a demand for public services such as education and public safety. Additionally, there will be social impacts associated with any construction project of this size, including drug use and other crimes. Of course, there will be opportunity also for residents and businesses. Depending on how the enabling legislation is structured, the facilities located on the Kenai Peninsula will significantly increase the tax base and revenues of the KPB.
Q: What is your proudest accomplishment as borough mayor?
A: Responsibly managing the budget. The KPB had been using reserves (fund balances) to support the general fund budget and we had a surplus last year (FY13) for the first time since FY09.
Q: As a Democrat, who is your favorite Republican in the Legislature?
A: I’m going to go with Peter Micciche because he is a personal friend and we’ve served together on the KP Boy’s & Girl’s Club Board for nearly 20 years.
Q: What is the biggest change you’ve seen in politics in the last 25 years?
A: The use of technology, including social media. 2) I think there is far too much polarization in politics and it’s gotten much worse in the last 25 years. The focus seems to be more on the next election than on the job of governing.
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