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Micciche wins mayor’s race, no runoff required

Newly elected Kenai Peninsula Borough Mayor Peter Micciche shakes hands with his campaign manager, Joe Rizzo, as the borough assembly certified the election Tuesday night.
Riley Board
Newly elected Kenai Peninsula Borough Mayor Peter Micciche shakes hands with his campaign manager, Joe Rizzo, as the borough assembly certified the election Tuesday night.

Updated 5 p.m. Wednesday

With all votes in, Soldotna’s Peter Micciche has been declared winner of the special election for Kenai Peninsula Borough mayor.

Micciche won more than half of all votes, with 51.6% — meaning no March runoff election is necessary. He’ll serve through the next regularly scheduled borough election in October and is filling a seat left open after the resignation of former borough mayor Charlie Pierce.

Micciche was formerly mayor of the City of Soldotna and, most recently, served as president of the Alaska State Senate.

On today’s Kenai Conversation, he said he’s missed the influence and impact of government at the local level.

“I think it affects your daily life more than so many other positions that we worry about every day,” Micciche said. “I like that. I like being the guy that can help find some resolution for some of the service issues people are dealing with everyday.”

The election was certified during a more-than five-hour Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly meeting last night and comes one week after election day. The borough was waiting to receive and count absentee, questioned and special needs ballots, as well as ballots from the borough’s by-mail precincts.

With those votes tallied, Micciche maintained a strong majority lead over his opponents.

Linda Farnsworth-Hutchings came in second place, with almost 20% of the vote. Robert Wall, a write-in candidate, came in third, with 12.1%.

David Carey brought in 11% and Zachary Hamilton had 4.6%.

Voter turnout borough wide was 13.1%, with more than 7,100 votes cast. Over a quarter of all votes cast were absentee, question and special needs ballots.

During their campaigns, Micciche and the other candidates spoke about the need for stability at the borough, which is facing multiple lawsuitsfrom employees who say they weren’t protected when they tried to report harassment claims against supervisors, including Pierce.

Micciche said he’d like to rework the borough’s human resources policies around harassment reporting so employees know how to report claims, with clear steps and consequences — both for elected and non-elected officials.

“I would assume in that particular case, you’re going to see a new policy that is quite clear on what’s going to be acceptable, and what will be defined as unacceptable behavior at the Kenai Peninsula Borough in any of the departments or assets,” he said — adding that while those policies are due for an overhaul, other human resources policies likely need to be tweaked, too.

He said another area he’d like to focus on is healthcare, and the services the borough offers from its hospitals and clinics.

“I have a lot to learn about how we can deliver the greatest value for borough residents with the institutions that we own, and that are owned by others,” Micciche said. “Healthcare is expensive. And it’s a problem that is exponential in growth. I need to understand what we can do here in the borough for those who fall through the cracks in being able to afford viable healthcare.”

Micciche’s first day on the job is Monday. He’s taking over for interim mayor Mike Navarre, who has been serving in the role since October. He said he has not yet made a final decision about who to hire for chief of staff.

The borough mayor gets a salary of $99 thousand per year. That salary will go up to $130 thousand starting in October, since the borough assembly approved a raise for the position earlier this month.

You can listen to this morning’s conversation with Micciche in full here.

KDLL’s Riley Board contributed reporting.

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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