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On Monday the Seward Chamber of Commerce held its Meet the Candidates event, streamed live from City Council chambers to introduce all six candidates running for posts in the upcoming October municipal elections. Chamber Marketing & Communications Director Kat Sorensen introduced the event, which was moderated by local author Sean Ulman. Ulman first questioned the two candidates running for the Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly vacancy before hearing from all four candidates vying for the two open City Council spots.

First to be heard were the two candidates for the Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly’s District 6 seat. Incumbent Kenn Carpenter appeared in person, while challenger and Seward Planning & Zoning Commission Chair Cindy Ecklund joined via phone.

Much of Carpenter’s discourse focused on his continued commitment to executing the will of the people and in maintaining lower taxes.

“By staying in here I can accomplish what I’ve started with a bunch of items, the school track, the schools’ repairs, the roads,” he said. “With Mr. Dill I’ve done a lot of requests on those. I just think I’ve done what people have asked. I’ve kept the mill rate down. I’ve kept the taxes down. I’ve voted against any tax increase.” 

Ecklund’s primary concern was the state of schools and what can be done to improve them.

“I’d really like to work to improve the funding for the schools in any way we can, think outside of the box,” she said. “It shouldn’t be an issue to staff with a living wage and to maintain the buildings and to maintain the offerings for the students. School will be one of my number one items, and as a founding member of Sustainable Seward, finding ways to improve our management of the solid waste will be another.” 

Afterward the four city council candidates took the dais. Council Member John Osenga, currently seeking re-election, was joined by Tufted Puffin owner Randy Wells, past council member Mike Calhoon, and candidate Leighton Radner.

Osenga’s concluding remarks outlined his motivation to run for a second term as characterized by a desire to complete many of the projects he was able to contribute to in his previous term.

“My main goal in running right now is just to help things move forward in a positive and productive manner,” Osenga said. “That’s it — support the things that have been started in the last few years on this council and just see them through.”

Wells, an entrepreneur and Chamber of Commerce board member who has owned multiple businesses since moving to Seward, discussed the importance of subjugating his own interests to the will of the people he would be elected to represent.

“As a city council member I have to kind of step back from a hundred percent of, one way or the other, how I might feel, and listen to the community as a whole, and listen to my constituents on the board before I can make a decision,” he said.

Calhoon intends to leverage his past experience serving on council and other boards in solving the many issues now faced by the city, citing the city’s current housing issue as a primary concern. 

“We’ve got some really good people as department heads, and the people that are leading the administration, leading the city government right now, there’s always improvements that can be made,” he said, “and I think as a city council member I can help the city move forward and help the improvements happen while still maintaining the integrity and the beauty and what Seward stands for.”

Radner’s primary focus throughout the discussion was the restriction of government in order to allow the private sector to flourish, though in his closing comments he also referenced the need to address alleged corruption while maintaining an ethical standard.

“I think there’s definitely selective enforcement in some places,” Radner said. “There’s cases of corruption and conflict of interest and things like that that I think need to be explored. One of the things that I mentioned earlier was principled votes, and I think that’s very important. I think people need to be principled because I think the city is principled, and I think the people who live here stand on those Alaskan values and the things that make this state great.”

Absentee voting began on Monday and will run through Oct. 4 at the City Clerk’s office. Election day is Tuesday, Oct. 5. To view the full Meet the Candidates video, visit youtu.be/BmXaAdWN2KM.