The results are final for a four person race for two seats on the Petersburg assembly. The assembly met Friday, October 9 to count any remaining votes. Assembly newcomer Dave Kensinger wins one of the two seats and incumbent Jeff Meucci retains his spot. The final count was 576 votes for Kensinger, 499 for Meucci. Incumbent Brandi Thynes finished with 482 votes while former city councilor Marc Martinsen ended with 343.
Dave Kensinger is a newcomer to the assembly but he’s not new to elected office. He’s been through contentious issues on Petersburg’s planning commission and lobbied for better ferry service on a statewide advisory board to the Alaska Marine Highway. He wants the assembly to give more weight to the work of local boards.
“Whether it’s the school board, the hospital board or planning and zoning, I’m going to listen to them because they’ve had the time to look at issues in a lot more detail than the assembly does,” Kensinger said. “That’s not to say I’m going to agree 100 percent with them all the time, I’m going to realize that they’ve spent the time and they know the issue better than I’ll know the issue and so I plan on listening to them.”
He also has been supportive of the borough’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic and think voters backed him because of that. He thinks it’s a little premature for the assembly to abandon teleconference meetings until the audio system at the assembly chambers can be improved.
Kensinger lives in Keene Channel on Kupreanof Island but owns property in other parts of the borough. Now, along with Bob Lynn, there are two members of the Petersburg assembly currently with a permanent address outside the old city limits.
“I’ve never seen myself as being outside service area one because like I said earlier you know I own a large commercial building in service area one, I’ve conducted my business in service area one for years,” he said. “So I’ve always felt like I was a part of the city when it’s a city and now that it’s a borough I definitely feel part of the borough.”
Kensinger said he’ll continue on the board of the Chamber of Commerce as he starts up a three-year assembly term.
Incumbent Jeff Meucci won the second seat and is thankful for another three years.
“There’s a bunch of stuff that I think we need to pay attention to here,” Meucci said Friday. “It was interesting for me when I was making some phone calls and doing some campaigning that, it was important for people to have somebody to talk to from time to time. There was a lot of concerns that folks had regarding recycling, nothing to do with the pandemic but people were concerned with parking up at the airport and the sanitation rates and the CARES Act funding. It was good for me to hear that. I have a long list of stuff I want to address here over the next couple of months.”
Meucci wants to tackle the future of the visitor industry in Petersburg over the winter before the next tourism season. He also expects the assembly will address spending the remaining federal coronavirus money by the end of the year as required. He’d also like to get meetings restarted in person once the sound system is fixed in the assembly chambers. Meucci doesn’t want to read too much into the results and calls it a snapshot of how people were feeling on just one day.
The other incumbent Brandi Thynes trailed Meucci by only 17 votes for that second seat. She did not respond to requests for comment.
Coming in fourth was Marc Martinsen. He’s run for borough assembly five times and saidhe may try again. This year he was outspoken against health measures in an emergency law approved by the assembly in September.
He also suggested specific cuts that he thinks the borough government should consider, like the recycling program or reductions to vehicle replacements.
“Well I hope this assembly realizes it could be tough times here, sales taxes and what they’re going to get for raw fish taxes next time that deals out going to be probably the lowest ever,” Martinsen said. “If they don’t cut something then I hate to see property taxes go up again but I’m sure they’ll work it out. It’s a good group they’ll do fine. There will be some tough choices to be made but that’s the way it is.”
The assembly counted three absentee ballots Friday. The final count was an even one thousand votes for a turnout of just under 34 percent.