Kenai Council rejects designated seats

Jul 9, 2019

There could be a couple of changes to how the City of Kenai handles its council elections, but they're minor compared to the change that failed at Wednesday night's meeting.

The changes that will be offered to voters to enact would no longer require candidates to have 20 signatures in order to file for office, and newly elected council members will be seated a week earlier.

The change that will not happen is the designation of specific seats for council members. They are currently elected at large.

Councilman Henry Knackstedt was co-sponsor of the resolution with Vice Mayor Tim Navarre. He suggested it might spur interest in running for office.

"I think in a lot of ways it might increase the number of candidates that we might see looking to run," he said. "If you have two candidates that are running and you're considering to run, let's say you're part of the public and you're wanting to run to, you may elect not to run because you don't want to hurt the chances of one of the two candidates that you really like. And this actually gives you the option or the opportunity to run against that particular seat as opposed to just a gamut of who gets you know, gets what."

The measures brought out former Councilwoman Linda Swarner, a 21-year veteran of the Kenai Council.

"As a resident of Kenai and as a former council member, I think the way the (city) charter as written has worked very well. Sometimes when there were two seats that were open when I ran for election or reelection, there might have been six people, or three people running for those two seats. So the top two vote getters got elected," Swarner said. "And if you start designating seats, you may not get the best people on the council. Because when you give the opportunity to the voters to select the top two vote getters that's the cream of the crop."

The measure failed on a 3-4 vote, with Councilmen Robert Peterkin and Bob Molloy, Councilwoman Glenese Petty, and Mayor Brian Gabriel voting no.