Two political newcomers are vying for the Matanuska Susitna Borough’s District 5 seat, since incumbent Darcie Salmon has decided to retire. Borough elections are set for October 7, and the heat is building up in this, the only contested race, which pits two long time community leaders, Bill Kendig and Dan Mayfield, against each other to represent the Borough’s fast growing industrial area.
The Borough’s District 5 stretches through back roads from Big Lake to Port MacKenzie, then down Knik Goose Bay Road to the outskirts of downtown Wasilla. The two candidates come from opposite ends of the district, but they are similar in outlook as to what’s needed in the Borough. Bill Kendig says it’s time he stepped up
“I’m knocking on as many doors as I can. I’ve got some disabilities, I’ve got a bad ankle, but I’m four-wheeling door to door and we are making phone calls.”
Kendig, who has spent close to three decades living along Knik Goose Bay road, known locally as KGB. He has raised two children while watching his neighborhood grow from a few sparse homes to one of the most traffic-heavy areas within the Borough. He says traffic congestion makes transportation planning one of the Borough’s most challenging tasks. He says a state plan for KGB is unacceptable
“They’re going to make it a divided highway. The problem is, there is not enough access, there is not enough left hand turns. Now, when they designed that, probably in the summer when it was nice and shiny and dry. What happens in November, December and January, when you’ve got to go a mile and make an U turn on a dark and icy road, just to get to the other side of the road. I’d like to get involved with DOT and their design, and come up with a better design.”
Kendig asks voters to give their opinion on the KGB upgrade on his website. Perhaps Kendig’s home spun campaign logo: the slogan “KEN ya DIG it!” splashed over a silhouette of a giant backhoe, says it best. He is definitely pro-development:
“It’s coming. It’s not a matter or whether it is going to be here, or whether it’s not going to be here. The development’s coming, the people are coming and it is a matter of when, and are we going to be ready for it.”
Kendig is a small business owner with a background in real estate and scrap metals buying, was on the Knik-Fairview Community Council for fifteen years, and now sits on the Borough’s planning commission. Kendig also helped to start the Knik Sled Dog Recreation District, the only park in the US dedicated to dog mushing. But, he says the Borough’s future is linked to it’s development projects.
“We have an opportunity in front of us in that port. It’s something that has been worked on for a long time. It’s birth was when Darcie Salmon was mayor, and Ted Stevens kicked in fifty million dollars to start developing it. It was a good idea then, it’s a good idea now. It’s our future. “
Big Lake candidate James “Dan” Mayfield couldn’t agree more. Mayfield strongly supports Port MacKenzie development, and says the integration of the Port and the new Alaska Railroad spur linking it to Houston could be a big revenue booster for the Borough.. although he admits that at present, that’s not happening.
“You know, we need to get the port and the railroad going in producing revenues. I think we need to move that forward in a more aggressive time period, so that we can produce revenues. Government is not generally a revenue – generating operation, but we have invested in some infrastrucutures, the port and the railroad for sure, that should be returning revenue to the taxpayers.”
Mayfield has a long history of service to the Big Lake community, and is founder of Big Lake Trails, Inc, a non profit which improves ATV trails linking Big Lake to Willow and Knik. He’s Vice President of the Big Lake Community Council and a member of the Big Lake Chamber of Commerce.
“My goal is to make the political process work for the average citizen. Local government, more than any other level of government is about people and making the community vision come alive for them. And I just want to help make that a reality in the Borough.”
Mayfield has raised three children and has retired from the insurance business, where he specialized in property and casualty claims. He says new Borough growth is bound to cause traffic snarls in some areas, and he points specifically to KGB road.
“KGB definitely has some safety concerns. It’s one of the three main safety corridors in the state. I am in favor of the four lane divided option for KGB. You know, safety is one of the concerns of government. I think we have to go with the safest option.”
District five is the seat of the BIG PROJECTS…Goose Bay Prison, Knik Arm Bridge, Port MacKenzie and its railroad spur. And the Borough has invested money in all of them, often overlooking criticism that Borough spending and Borough income are not in sync.
“When we plan projects, we need to make sure we understand all the intricacies of that, and how it’s going to return revenue to the Borough, and relieve our tax burden,” Mayfield says.
Other than opposing views on a KGB upgrade, there’s not a lot separating Kendig and Mayfield. At a recent Wasilla luncheon forum, Kendig gave an enthusiastic “Yes!” to a question about bringing cruise ships into Port MacKenzie. Mayfield answered not so fast,” it is an industrial port now, and the prospect needs more review.”