After an Anchorage Assembly vote on Friday evening, Austin Quinn-Davidson will become interim mayor when Mayor Ethan Berkowitz’s resignation goes into effect at 6 p.m. on October 23.
The Assembly voted for the reorganization and chose Assembly member Quinn-Davidson as the new chair, replacing Felix Rivera. City charter declares that the President of the Assembly will serve as interim mayor during a vacancy.
Quinn-Davidson, 40, is a lawyer who was first elected to the Assembly in 2018 and re-elected this year. She will be the first woman and an openly gay individual to serve as mayor or acting mayor of the Municipality of Anchorage.
Quinn-Davidson was chosen as acting mayor following a tumultuous week that began with a local news anchor who made unsubstantiated allegations against Berkowitz and which resulted in his resignation on Tuesday, after admitting to having a consensual and inappropriate messaging relationship with her. Quinn-Davidson will become acting mayor at a time when the city is deeply divided over its approach to the COVID-19 pandemic, homelessness and other issues.
In an interview after the Friday meeting, Quinn-Davidson said taking on the role of mayor was not something she intended to do.
At first I was very resistant because it is a big task, she says.
I think the most important role of a mayor right now is to instill confidence in government and put people at ease during a pretty tumultuous time, she said. I think it’s essential to revitalize the economy and ensure that small businesses can survive and people can return to work. Of course, this interacts with public health and safety, and these two elements are so aligned that we have to work together on both. “
On Friday, the Assembly also chose Rivera as vice-president. He will rise to the post of president next Friday when Quinn-Davidson becomes interim mayor.
The total votes for the selection of the new President and Vice-President of the Assembly have not been shared publicly. By following the process described in city charter, the members voted by secret ballot. City Clerk Barbara Jones then counted those votes and announced the winner.
It is not yet clear how long Quinn-Davidson will be acting mayor.
Speaking at the meeting, City Attorney Kate Vogel said the city’s charter leaves some ambiguity on how to go about electing the next mayor if the city needs to hold a special election to choose the next mayor or if it can wait for the regular elections in April.
Vogel said the Assembly has three legally defensible choices: He can organize a special election in January, 90 days after Berkowitz resigns. Or he can decide to forgo a special election and ask Quinn-Davidson to be acting mayor until April’s regular election, when voters choose a new mayor.
From there, the newly elected mayor could take over early, before the time mayors usually start in July. Or Quinn-Davidson could continue as interim mayor until July, when a newly elected mayor would typically take office.
Vogel said the municipal charter specifies that the post of mayor must be filled in a special or regular election held 90 days or more from the vacancy of the post.
In that case, a special election could take place on or after Jan.21, 2021, and voters would elect a new mayor who would only serve until June 30, Vogel said.
The city estimated the cost of a special election to be around $ 350,000, City Secretary Barbara Jones said.
Rivera said the Assembly would decide how to proceed at a future meeting.
As interim mayor, Quinn-Davidson will be tasked with guiding the city through a difficult mayor transition. The city is experiencing its highest number of COVID-19 cases since the start of the pandemic. The economy has been hampered by the pandemic and the problem of homelessness has proved difficult for the city to solve.
We were going through a pretty difficult transition with the mayor’s resignation and working on things incredibly important to our economy, COVID-19, and we have just started our long process of building our 2021 budget, said MP Kameron Perez-Verdia. in an interview before the meeting.
During the meetings’ initial comment period, Assembly members expressed their desire to choose an interim mayor who would bring stability to the city and act as the guardian of the office until the citizens elect. a new mayor.
MP John Weddleton was also named President of the Assembly and then Interim Mayor by MP Suzanne LaFrance. During a statement period at the start of the meeting, MP Crystal Kennedy said she supported Weddleton as acting mayor because of his background as a businessman, adding that he was important that the members of the Assembly also take into account the current political climate.
Rivera appointed Quinn-Davidson to take office as chairman.
I know Vice President Quinn-Davidson is a compassionate person, a dedicated public servant, an exceptional listener, a critical thinker and most of all, in my opinion, clear-sighted and balanced, said Rivera.
After voting for the deputy mayor, the Assembly heard about two hours of public testimony. Several people took issue with the way the vote was conducted, saying the process lacked transparency and ignored public input as testimony took place after the vote.
A number of people who testified criticized the cities’ handling of the pandemic, while several others praised the Assembly for its actions.