Borough mayor reflects on first three months in office
Kenai Peninsula Borough mayor Charlie Pierce has been in office for three months, and has spent a lot of time with borough staff trying to find more savings in the budget.
KDLL’sShaylon Cochran spoke with him on the Kenai Conversation this week to find out how things are going and how the budget is coming along. He says one of his first orders of business has been dispelling the the notion that the borough’s workforce will bear the brunt of any major budget cuts.
Charlie Pierce: “The perception out there is they’re going to come in, they’re going to go through a pattern of firing folks and make things less than comfortable around the borough. I’m a conservative-minded individual. Always have; my whole life I’ve been conservative in my own life. I’ve always set boundaries in my own life and been a planner. I planned so there was some predictability in the outcomes of what I would experience in my life. I run the day-to-day business that way, too. I think it’s fair to say that folks need to have some reasonable expectation of what to expect. I think we’ve been very, very careful, very methodical about the decisions we’re making. If you’re in the borough building here, and you’re working for Kenai Peninsula Borough, you’re subject to getting a new boss. Every six years for sure. We’re trying to make that experience as respectful and as enlightening as we possibly can. I can say, from what we’re getting back...we put some survey boxes in, actually. We’ve got a suggestion box (in the borough building), we’re installing one in Seward and we’re going to install one in Homer, as well. We’ve gotten some good ideas that we’ve come out of there with. They’re confidential. It’s a good way to learn the pulse of what’s going on.”
Shaylon Cochran: Talking about folks who have been here for awhile, I have to imagine that’s got to be one of the bigger challenges for everyone involved, from the Mayor’s office on down. As you mentioned, every three years and six years at a maximum is a fresh set of ideas coming in. If you’re dealing with folks who have built a career out of this and they know this stuff inside and out, there’s a lot to learn from that I’m sure, but there’s also a lot of opportunity for discussion about new ideas.
CP:“Absolutely. (Chief of Staff) John (Quick) and I spent the first month sitting down with all the (department) directors, a number of the employees, all the fire chiefs, a number of the service areas and some of the folks that are on boards in the service areas and we have run hard the first three months in trying to get in front of the curve.”
SC: One of the things you’ve talked about and another part of the budget process that’s going to create some savings, it was a huge part of your campaign as well, was really getting down to brass tacks, sitting down with department heads and figuring out where can we trim some fat.
CP:“The biggest factor that could force discussion would be any individual that retired or decided to leave.”
SC:Maybe the worry there is that from an employee standpoint, we’re creating efficiencies is what you call it, but on some level it’s piling more work on other people’s desks and not necessarily for more pay and more pension and that can be kind of tough.”
CP:“I understand. (The way) we make up for it is we give out lots of thank yous. We really appreciate what you’re doing. Then what you do is you reward. We created this employee of the month. That was a John Quick idea. John or I will reach into our own personal pockets and pick up a $20 gift card from somewhere, buy them some coffee for a few days. Those coffee connoisseurs, they can go out and enjoy a little bit. It’s a simple way to say thank you and again, you get the buy-in. What I really try to show by example is ownership. Taking ownership.”