Only one candidate for the Kodiak Island Borough Assembly sat at the table at last night’s special meeting, where he faced assembly members, the mayor, and others to answer questions as part of the interview process.
The seat became available after Carol Austerman resigned last month. Up until a week ago, Dennis Symmons and Mel Stephens were both up for appointment, but at last night’s special session, Assemblywoman Rebecca Skinner expressed confusion over Stephens’ apparent withdrawal.
“It’s the seventh in the eighth memo, he says for the record, I did not withdraw my application,” she said.
Friend responded, “The way I read it was that Mel just thought it was inappropriate that he had his name in there… I took it as he was pulling his name off.”
The original memo Stephens wrote last week explained that he would be out of town this Thursday due to a misunderstanding about dates. He referenced borough code that would inhibit him from being interviewed and sworn in during the required window of time after Austerman’s resignation.
The memo suggested he would be ineligible and it would therefore be “inappropriate” for him to be appointed, and Stephens stated in a recent memo that therefore he did not withdraw. The assembly clarified that Stephens was not in the running and interviewed the sole candidate, Dennis Symmons.
“I’ll start off with ‘why do you want to serve on the assembly?’” asked Mayor Friend.
“Being involved in the service district just kept opening my eyes more and more to what was going [on] locally,” said Symmons. “It just seemed like something better could be done – better, better, better. And I watched, I sat back and I watched. Whether I could be part of that better or not – watch, watch, watch. Ten years ago, I probably would have felt inadequate to participate. Today, I do not. Today, I want to be part of that betterment.”
Symmons elaborated on his desire to be involved in the community in an answer to another of Mayor Friend’s questions.
“What type of public service or volunteering have you done in the past?” asked Friend.
“Services District 1 has been the height of it,” said Symmons. “Never gave back to the community until I got on Service District 1. And it’s been really good. The more I’ve given back, the more I like that. At the risk of sounding like a taker, I did not realize how much I’ve taken, harvested my life, until I started giving back. And it’s to this community that I will live the rest of my life in.”
At the end of the interview, the assembly agreed unanimously to appoint Symmons to the vacant seat. Symmons stayed at the table for the rest of the special meeting and into the work session that followed as an official assembly member. He will serve until the October municipal election, when the seat will be on the ballot for a one-year term.