Charlie Pierce resigns as Kenai Peninsula Borough mayor

A man in a suit gives a talk at a microphone.
Kenai Peninsula Borough Mayor Charlie Pierce in 2018. (Aaron Bolton / KBBI)

Kenai Peninsula Borough Mayor Charlie Pierce announced Friday that he’s resigning as mayor next month to focus full-time on his gubernatorial campaign.

Pierce, a conservative from Sterling, is in his second term as mayor of the borough. He was first elected in 2017 and his current term didn’t end until late next year. He announced his resignation Friday morning on a conservative podcast and in a written statement posted to Facebook.

“It has been a pleasure and great honor to serve the residents of the Kenai Peninsula Borough these past five years,” he said in the statement.

He did not immediately respond to calls seeking comment.

Pierce has previously said he would plan an exit strategy if he advanced to the general election for Alaska governor — which he’s appeared to do, per unofficial election results.

Pierce and running mate Edie Grunwald are in fourth in the governor’s primary with about 6.7% of the total vote, as of a Thursday night update. They’ll move ahead to the general election in November, per the new ranked-choice voting system.

They trail far behind the top-three candidates. Incumbent Republican Mike Dunleavy is leading in the race with 41% of the vote. Democrat Les Gara and Independent Bill Walker each have just over 22% of the vote. The results of the primary won’t be certified until early September.

Pierce told his former chief of staff John Quick on the Must Read Alaska podcast that his resignation is effective the end of the day Sept. 30.

“So I am going to go campaign,” he said. “And it was my campaign’s team’s desire for me to do this much earlier. But, again, putting a plan together — and I will help through the transition.”

Alaska statute says if a mayor resigns more than six months before a regular election and the resignation is accepted, the borough must hold a special election to fill the remainder of the term.

In the short term, the mayor has an administrative officer who’s designated to carry out his powers when he cannot, according to borough code. That designated authority is the borough’s chief of staff Aaron Rhoades. Borough Finance Director Brandi Harbaugh is an alternate.

Borough Attorney Sean Kelley said the legal department will publish a memo to the Assembly about the succession process next week.

“It is expected that the KPB Assembly will address the issue of a vacancy in the office of the mayor at its next regularly scheduled meeting in accordance with the process proscribed under State law,” he wrote in a Friday email. The next borough assembly meeting is Sept. 6.

Neither the legal department nor the borough clerk’s office had more details about hte interim appointment or the special election at this time.

Before Pierce was borough mayor, he served on the Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly and was a manager at Enstar.

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