The Seward Phoenix Log - News of the Eastern Kenai Peninsula since 1966

By Wolfgang Kurtz
LOG Editor 

Mayor's Race

Bardarson aims for follow through, McDonald proposes oversight

 


Two lifetime Seward residents and local business owners are running for the city office of mayor at the election to be held Oct. 1. The candidates along with four people running for three regular council seats will be attending a public Meet the Candidates Night event, 7 p.m., Wednesday, Sept. 25, presented by the Seward Chamber of Commerce.

Jean Bardarson

A City of Seward council member since 2006, Vice-Mayor Jean Bardarson is running hoping to become Seward’s next mayor. The move is what seems to be to her the logical next step in her progression through local public service. Seward’s Margaret Branson passed away Nov. 29, 2005 and Bardarson was favored for an appointment to Branson’s seat on council. Local civic and business leaders told her it was her generation’s time to step up.

According to Bardarson, it was good timing as she already been involved in starting up and running several successful area businesses and was ready for the challenge. Her kids were heading to college and she wasn’t one to sit at home and twiddle her thumbs. After serving as an appointed council member for nine months, Bardarson stood for her first election and was elected in the fall of 2006 and then for three additional terms. She then picked up the additional duties of vice-mayor in 2009, then ran for fouth council race last fall.

Having been raised in Seward, Jean and her husband Blaine returned after college and travel to raise children and develop the family business. When she first came to council Bardarson didn’t have any preconceptions or specific mission. But as she became more informed and established a relationship with residents and business owners from a public service perspective, Bardarson’s interests widened and she got involved in the mechanics of getting things done.

It was a significant change from the rather more freewheeling, hands-on nature of small business. Bardarson says that she learned that the public sector works slowly in many cases, requiring a lot of consensus building and weighing pros and cons from multiple viewpoints. She recalls Margaret Branson cautioning that when you make a decision up there, try to keep in mind what is best for the whole of Seward.

Bardarson is now intent on staying engaged with projects and problems that have made significant progress during her time on council. She wants to see them through and thinks that the next couple of years will be a watershed moment for Seward. Literally. One problem is the Lowell Creek diversion tunnel where Bardarson says the clock is ticking. City administration and council have made good progress on keeping the Army Corps of engineers engaged on a solution for the troublesome flood control system that requires expensive re-engineering at minimum.

The city’s biggest project is the Seward Marine Industrial Center. With tens of millions already invested and close to another $20 million set to be spent on a new breakwater and other improvements, Bardarson is looking forward to the next generation of business spawned from this development. However, she thinks that the private sector should play a larger role in developing city assets like SMIC and the north harbor uplands, A couple issues that concern her are maintaining the beaches adjacent SMIC for public use and DOT’s impending move of their maintenance facility to Crown Point.

Although she’s looking forward to serving Seward’s residents once again, Bardarson is ready to repeat the pattern that resulted in her first election to office. She’s got her eye on some younger likely candidates for public service and she says they better watch out because before they know it, they could be drafted the way she was.

Tim McDonald

Tim McDonald has been a fixture in city politics since 1997 and was born here in Seward in 1958. His father was in the tug boat business and his mother was a homemaker and involved in the local Methodist church. He grew up working in the private sector around the marine trades and has some firm ideas about fiscal restraint and the limits that government should observe.

McDonald is frequently spotted at city council meetings offering comments, critiques and proposals for community projects and issues. He has also served on the Seward Bear Creek Flood Service Area board, Seward Planning and Zoning Commision and is presently a board member at the Cook Inlet Aquaculture Association. McDonald has also stood for council and mayor in recent years.

He’s running for Seward Mayor because he says the council should move the city toward getting a handle on expenditures that McDonald characterizes as excessive. He thinks that management of the city’s 22 budgets, including the 21 enterprise funds is unnecessarily opaque. He points to financial issues with the hospital and long term care facility as indications of continuing limp management that leaves large sums of money being transferred around without resolving underlying issues.

However, McDonald does see some progress made under the new administration but then points to the new electrical department warehouse as a coal mine canary. He says that too many city projects come in over budget because they’re set up to bait and switch on the council. One aspect of the process he cites is that “instead of bidding out the entire package, they’re putting up these projects to be approved one brick one at a time.” McDonald calls that gross inefficiency.

He claims that he will bring his background as a licensed engineer along with associated construction experience to the mix on council.

“My technical expertise is augmented with practical experience,” McDonald said, “And it happens to be in the areas where Seward is growing the most.” However, he opines that council races often come down to a popularity contest and council members, once elected, don’t really accomplish much other than voting at meetings. McDonald says that a higher standard should be set by council members and that they should work closer with administration to come up with specific proposals instead of ending up squabbling over the details after the fact.

McDonald also brings up another issue that he says should concern the community in that the majority of private business owners live outside of Seward and have no representation. He states that w here you put your house is not necessarily reflective of your commitment to Seward. McDonald suggests that an at-large candidates for the community that lives outside of city limits might address that issue.

He applauds current Mayor David Seaward for lighting a fire under the prospect of tax relief. “I think utilities are too high for residential,” McDonald says. “We’re being mistreated as voters. All we get is bills and broken streets. There is a lot of money coming in from outside and we build a lot of infrastructure for outside interests, but you don’t see a lot of benefits, [only] a raised cost of living.”

 

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