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Assembly turns down expansion of mayor's assistant position

Sabine Poux

The Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly voted down a proposal to make the borough mayor’s part-time special assistant position into a full-time one, citing concerns about the timing of the resolution.

Mayor Charlie Pierce wasn’t at the meeting last night to discuss. But his chief of staff, Aaron Rhoades, said the position was needed to help with the office’s workload. It’s currently a quarter-time position.

No part of the resolution or memo mentioned the mayor’s former chief of staff, James Baisden. Baisden retired from that chief of staff last summer.

But the assembly meeting, Rhoades implied he’d like to hire Baisden for the position.

“I think James Baisden brings some good things," Rhoades said. "He’s a plug-and-play individual and I think he could probably help us out on some things that I could use some help on.”

Baisden doesn’t currently serve in the part-time position. He directed questions to Rhoades, who could not be reached for further questions before airtime.

The laydown submitted ahead of the meeting said the mayor’s office has had special assistants in the past. Under Pierce's administration, the office turned the full-time position into the part-time gig it is today.

In the memo, Rhoades said the mayor's office needs additional resources "to serve as a liaison to the Borough's various boards and commissions, assist with upcoming capital projects, a potential $65 million bond package, work with cities and their councils to collaborate on borough and city issues, and other duties as assigned."

Rhoades said his office brought forward the resolution for transparency’s sake. He said the mayor has the discretion and the funds to make the position full-time without assembly approval.

But assembly member Jesse Bjorkman said he took issue with the last-minute nature of the request. He said members of Nikiski's service area board told him they were worried that additional liaisons to the mayor’s staff would make it harder to speak directly to Pierce and Rhoades.

"Which is why this as a laydown, kind of being dropped just today, doesn’t give me a lot of opportunity to go and talk to those folks and explain," Bjorkman said.

He was one of four majority “no” votes on the resolution. Member Bill Elam was absent at the meeting.

The assembly could discuss the resolution again at its next meeting on May 3, since assembly member Richard Derkevorkian asked to reconsider it in light of that absence.

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