Voters in the city of Kenai will have three choices for two city council seats Oct. 6. Incumbents Henry Knackstead and Tim Navarre are running for reelection. Challenger Teea Winger is running her second campaign for a council seat. The top two vote-gets will be seated for a three-year term.
All three grew up in Kenai. Knackstead is a civil engineer, Navarre is a business owner and Winger is a full-time mom.
At a Kenai Chamber of Commerce forum held Sept. 16, Knackstead and Navarre said they would continue the positive progress made to better promote the city, improve the financial outlook and free up airport and other city land for development. Winger said she’d bring new voices to the council.
“I am definitely a lot younger, trying to engage people more my age and the younger voters,” Winger said. “So that’s definitely what’s going to set me out is I can bring fresh new thoughts and ways of doing things to the council.”
There weren’t any huge disagreements between the candidates, though. All three are on the same page with the importance of completing the city’s decades-long push to stabilize the bluff in Old Town.
“I’ve been an advocate from the get-go that we should be able to do the design here at the local level,” Knackstead said. “And once we get it designed, then we can work on getting funds.”
And all three agree about the importance of helping businesses survive the economic impacts of the coronavirus pandemic. Navarre and Knackstead pointed with pride to Kenai being the first city in Alaska to get a CARES relief grant program up and running. Winger said the city could be doing more.
“So definitely making sure we’re that getting those funds out to the businesses, not just putting them on the website,” she said. “I’ve heard different reviews from different people’s businesses that they would like an application brought to them. That in a two-week period they do not have the time to get online, fill out an application, so having something sent to their business would put the funds into more hands.”
Winger and Navarre voiced concern about homelessness in Kenai.
“I do believe, and I know that there is a problem, but working with the health care professionals, as well as all the different nonprofits and finding a real solution to working at the problem instead of just kind of placating,” Navarre said.
Knackstead supports public safety but, for him, public works is more of a priority than homelessness.
“Improve a street, extend some water. The sewer treatment plant, something we don’t think about too much, it is in need of some repair and upgrades down there and will save the city a whole lot of money down the road if we do,” Knackstead said.
To put the city on firmer financial footing, Knackstead and Navarre praised actions in recent years — creating separate funds for things like health care and equipment to better track and manage costs, and setting a fund balance policy so the city can’t budget in the red. Navarre said that progress needs to continue.
“I would just keep improving. I mean, just because you pass a policy doesn’t mean you can’t look at it and see, 'Is there something we can do better or make it better, but look at those policies and continue to make sure they’re doing what they intended,” Navarre said.
Election Day is Oct. 6. Absentee in-person voting started Sept. 21, in the clerk’s office in Kenai City Hall and the Borough Building in Soldotna. Registered voters can have an absentee ballot sent to them by mail if they apply for a ballot with the borough clerk’s office by Sept. 29. And polling on Oct. 6 will be open in the Old Carrs Mall for Kenai Precincts 1 and 3 and at the Challenger Learning Center for Kenai Precinct 2.