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Chief of staff out with borough mayor

Sabine Poux/KDLL

Kenai Peninsula Borough Chief of Staff Aaron Rhoades will leave the borough administration with his boss at the end of September, according to a memo from the borough’s legal department, uploaded today with the Sept. 6 assembly agenda.

Rhoades has been the right hand to Borough Mayor Charlie Pierce since July 2021. Pierce announced his resignation last week, saying he needed to focus on his gubernatorial campaign.

It’s unclear why Rhoades is also leaving. He was previously the designated administrator for the office, meaning he would act as the interim executive in the event of a vacancy.

In an email Tuesday evening, Borough Attorney Sean Kelley confirmed that Rhoades indicated his last day will coincide with Pierce’s. He said his office is not aware of a resignation at this time.

Pierce hasn’t responded to requests for comment about his resignation. After allegations from a political blog, Kelley told reporters the borough hired an Anchorage law firm to perform a confidential human resources investigation this summer. But he did not say whether that investigation had anything to do with Pierce or his resignation. Kelley said Pierce’s resignation was voluntary.

In a separate legal memo outlining a succession plan, Kelley said the borough is in a "unique situation" and that there’s no clear statute in borough or state code that lays out an immediate succession plan.

Kelley said in the memo the assembly could appoint an interim mayor to serve until a special election at a later date, or that it could defer to the currently designated administrative officer as the chief executive — Finance Director Brandi Harbaugh.

Before he was also set to leave office, Rhoades was the designated officer in the case of a vacancy. Harbaugh was the alternate.

Kelley’s memo also said the borough will need to call a special election to fill the vacancy for the remainder of Pierce’s term, through October 2023.

The borough assembly meets next Tuesday. It will have to accept Pierce’s resignation and declare the office vacant at that meeting.

Sabine Poux is a producer and reporter for the Brave Little State podcast of Vermont Public. She was formerly news director and evening news host at KDLL in Kenai.

Originally from New York, Sabine has lived and reported in Argentina and Vermont and Kenai.
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