Publisher’s Note: As we do ahead of each local election, KDM gives candidates the opportunity to present information about themselves directly to our print and digital readers. We reserve the right to edit for length, style and clarity.
Candidate: Richard Walker
Office: City Council
Occupation: Construction inspector at USCG Base Kodiak
Why are you running for re-election? I am running for re-election and my fourth term as a City Councilman because I love serving our community and look at it as an honor to help our fellow citizens. My wife, Julia, and I have lived in Kodiak for many years and we have raised six kids here. I care deeply about our island home and am committed to maintaining and preserving the quality of life for all residents.
What qualifies you for this role? Over my nine years on the City Council I have gained insights into the complexities of managing a municipality on a remote island in the Gulf of Alaska. Working with my fellow Councilmembers and City Staff, I have learned how to develop solutions, solve problems, compromise when necessary, but always to keep my eye on the needs of Kodiak.
What would be your priorities during your time on City Council?
1) Support an Economic Development Plan for Kodiak Island that creates resiliency while looking for ways to expand our economy.
2) Maintain our infrastructure, continue to provide the critical services of the city without any increases in tax rates at a time when state contributions have been significantly reduced or eliminated.
3) Pursue funding from state and federal governments along with private grant funding for the design and construction of a new fire station.
How would you address those priorities? The City Council has a very detailed process that takes many meetings and several months to review and approve the budget. The council works closely with city management and staff to identify priorities, address revenue sources and then set fiscal policy. We do this by working collaboratively to ultimately deliver a comprehensive budget for our community that will sustain us into the future.
What makes you more qualified than others who are running for this seat? I have nine years of service on the City Council and take my position seriously. I take pride in keeping a good attendance record and dedicate the time to study the council packet agendas carefully in order to be fully prepared for our meetings. I am a good listener and have become familiar with the many aspects of city government. There are certain times that we disagree as a body and debate an issue if needed before voting on a topic. Knowing how to maneuver in those settings is vital to getting a good result for the community.
How would you evaluate the ESC’s performance in response to COVID? I feel that the ESC has done a good job dealing with COVID and has managed to navigate through uncertain times, mindful of the impacts on our community. COVID is something that most people could never have anticipated, but the ESC stepped in and made difficult decisions to keep our community safe. I am proud of their many hours of service and information to our community.
How do you feel about the city’s current budget? What things are either overfunded or underfunded? Over the past nine years that I have been on the City Council we have implemented a balanced budget each year. This is one of the most important processes that we undertake, and it takes countless hours of meetings and special meetings. We review requests from the city manager and his staff and departments while considering input from our community members at the same time. The result has been a consistent, sustainable and balanced budget.
The city and the borough have had on-again, off-again conversations and debates about consolidation. What, if anything, do you think needs to happen on the topic? I am in favor of the City of Kodiak moving forward with annexation of all property between the City Limits South and the Kodiak Airport. Consolidation has been brought up three times since I moved to Kodiak in 1989. I was very involved with some of those meetings at the time and we were unable to show that there would be any savings to the community and in most cases costs would likely increase. The City provides services, fire, police, ambulance, harbors, library, public works, park and rec, sewer and water — the Borough is responsible for education, land management and assessing, and landfill.
Are you satisfied with the city’s plan for the fire station? Are there any changes you want to make to the current plan? The city’s plan for the new fire station is evolving and a “road map” has been developed so we can provide oversight and direction to staff. The bottom line is that we are not going forward until a new design firm is hired and 35% of the drawings are approved by a review committee and the council. The City Council is committed to supporting a project that meets our needs and our budget.
Do you believe that there needs to be changes to the waterfront facilities? If so, what should they be? Our harbors are our economic engine and are in constant need of upgrades and improvements. The city has plans to develop a Harbor Master Plan that will identify and prioritize areas that need the most urgent attention.