Five candidates are vying for the two open seats on the Kenai City Council this October.
KDLL has been interviewing the candidates for that race and other municipal races on Kenai Conversation. You can play those interviews online any time and learn where the candidates stand on city issues — including COVID-19 relief funds, bluff erosion and economic development.
Victoria Askin is the incumbent in this year's race.
Askin is a technician at Hilcorp and was appointed to fill a council vacancy in December. But even before that, she had her hand in local politics, as a member of the Kenai Harbor Commission, Cook Inlet Harbor Safety Committee and Kenai Planning and Zoning Commission. She was also on the Local Emergency Planning Committee for over a decade.
“I really like the direction that the city’s going and would like to keep it going that way,” she said “I especially have enjoyed the common-sense approach that our council takes with problems, especially with the current COVID situation.”
When it comes to her biggest concerns for the city, Askin said she’s worried about the Kenai’s declining fishing industry. She also said she wants to see more business on the city’s waterfront.
Candidate Jim Duffield is an accountant and a member of the Homer Electric Association board of directors. He said he wants to make sure local government stays small.
“I've become more and more politically active over the last number of years, especially seeing what’s happened nationally and realizing we’ve got to take care of ourselves locally,” Duffield said. “We’ve got a great Christain conservative community and I just want to see it going in the right direction.”
Duffield agrees that the city should encourage waterfront development, particularly in Old Town Kenai. And he said the most important step to making that happen is stabilizing the eroding bluff.
James Baisden is also throwing his hat in the ring for council. Most recently, Baisden was chief of staff for Kenai Peninsula Borough Mayor Charlie Pierce. Before that, he led the Nikiski and Kenai fire departments.
“Over the last year, I’ve probably been a voice of some opposition that’s taken place with some of the things in the school district and some of the mandates that have been taking place,” he said. “And I've had a lot of folks ask me, ‘You know what, you should look at city council, because that also has some influence dealing with where we may be going.’ So that’s why I’m in the race.”
Baisden said his biggest strength on the council would be his experience with complex budgeting from his time with borough administration.
Candidate Deborah Sounart doesn’t have any experience serving in local government. But she said she thinks voters would appreciate having someone who's newer to politics on council.
Sounart retired from the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District last year, where she was a teacher for over 25 years.
“And all that energy and all that effort of running a program and running extra stuff for the students is my strength,” she said. “And I will bring that energy and that experience to the council.”
Alex Douthit, who owns Kenai Peninsula Driving Instruction, is also running for council.
Douthit is a commissioner with Kenai Planning and Zoning. In 2018, the Kenai Chamber of Commerce named him the Young Entrepreneur of the Year.
“Being involved as a small business owner, being a little bit younger, seeing how the city’s changed over the last few years and where it’s leading and what I want to see in the future might be different than somebody who’s in a different part of their life,” Douthit said.
Douthit said he’d like to see Kenai diversify its economy. And he said a big concern of his is the ongoing spruce bark beetle outbreak in Southcentral.
Voters will pick their top two candidates for Kenai City Council at the polls.
Election day in the borough is Oct. 5. Absentee voting started this week.
Listen to our candidate interviews in full online. And tune into KDLL next Wednesday at 10 a.m. and Saturday at 5 p.m. for our conversations with the candidates for Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly.