O’Brien makes it six
Nikiski resident and lifelong Alaskan Tim O'Brien announced Wednesday he would be competing for the top spot in the Kenai Peninsula Borough in this October's election.
O'Brien, 58, joins a field of five other competitors jousting for the borough mayor's seat currently held by Dave Carey, who is not seeking re-election.
The other mayoral candidates include Dale Bagley and Fred Sturman, both of Soldotna, Debbie Brown of Kasilof, Gary Superman of Nikiski and Mike Navarre of Kenai. Ron Long, of Seward, recently dropped out of the race.
O'Brien, a retired union hand who worked on the trans-Alaska oil pipeline, currently owns Alaska's Territorial Lodge, but has not run for the mayoral position before. He was appointed to serve on the Alaska Department of Fish and Game's Kenai/Soldotna Advisory Committee for subsistence fishing in addition to serving as vice-president of the Kenai Peninsula Resource Management Coalition board for about 3 years.
"The only reason I am doing it is because everybody is dissatisfied right now with the attention they are getting because of the special interest," he said. "They are pushing me and leading me to represent them."
However, O'Brien maintained he did not want to become a "career politician" and resisted the urges of others to get him to run for office for years before now.
"Everybody is so discouraged with the special interest - there is only 20 percent of the people voting," he said. "The reason is that they are not being heard or represented. I want to bring the other people back to the borough.
"I am not a smart enough man to run the borough, but we are. So with the help of the 80 percent and the other 20 possibly, I think we can run this borough, but we must have their involvement."
O'Brien contends borough politics needs to take "a 180."
"We need a change and I have been hounded for quite a few years to run and I didn't want to run, but there is nobody to step up to the plate," he said. "The people who are running now have been in already and we will have no change."
One of the biggest changes he is advocating for is a better relationship between the borough administration and the assembly.
He would also strive to be open-minded when addressing the borough's business, he said.
"I would like the borough and the assembly to work together again the way it used to be," he said. "They are at odds and I would like to regain that partnership."
O'Brien is also concerned with a wide variety of issues facing borough residents, he said, including fishing, timber, personal rights, equality, community and the economy.
The borough's economy, he added, "sucks."
"I would like to put jobs back," he said. "I would like the people to get involved in the community again and I think we can if we get together again. But, when you divide and conquer, you will fail."
O'Brien pointed toward boosting the state's exports of products that can be "value added," and uniting and promoting small businesses across the area.
Moreover, he said he would like to re-establish and maintain equality while serving.
"We are all Alaska residents and I want us to be treated fairly and equally," he said.
O'Brien also said he thinks his chances for winning are good, even against five other candidates.
"It depends on if I can get the 80 percent of the people to trust me because they have been so disappointed," he said. "It will take a lot of discussion and I hope they will get involved again because, after so long, it is hard to regain trust in the community."