On October 23, 2020, I was sworn in as the Acting Mayor of Anchorage.
It’s hard to remember now, but our world looked radically different then.
COVID cases were increasing rapidly. Our mayor had just resigned. The Municipality was facing a sharp decline in revenue as a result of the pandemic, and our 2021 budget deadline was looming. The pandemic was taking its toll on all of us, but particularly our most vulnerable residents and our local businesses and their employees. Over 200,000 people had died of COVID-19 in the United States alone, and thousands of families across Anchorage were struggling to get by.
Those were some of the darkest days our city has ever faced.
Just a week ago, we celebrated the lightest day of the year. What an important reminder of how far we’ve come in the last 8 months.
We didn’t get here by chance. When I came into this role, I knew my office would need to improve communication with the public, work collaboratively with partners across our community, and lead with compassion and an open mind. We established regular meetings with partners in the sectors most impacted by the pandemic, working together to find solutions to their unique challenges. We listened to both health and economic experts to reach the best possible outcomes for our community. And we stayed focused on setting Anchorage up for success in the long run.
We allocated over $200 million in federal CARES Act and American Rescue Plan Act funds to the Anchorage businesses and families that need them the most. We retained Anchorage’s AAA bond rating and added $25 million in new revenue through the sale of ML&P and the alcohol tax, funding core services such as camp abatement, early childhood education, and a mental health first response program – without increasing the burden on property taxpayers.
We kept over 7,000 families housed through our rental and mortgage assistance program. We funded emergency shelter to keep over 700 people off the streets and out of the cold. We invested in housing solutions and saw the number of reported camps in Anchorage go down. We developed a comprehensive homelessness plan, providing the incoming administration with the most realistic path to being out of the Sullivan Arena shelter by fall.
We brought crime rates down and appointed the first Black Chief of Police in Anchorage history.
We continued work to save the deteriorating Port of Alaska and invested in the Port Modernization Project to keep this critical lifeline open for Anchorage—and all of Alaska—for decades to come.
While fighting an unprecedented pandemic in the present, we kept Anchorage’s future at the forefront.
And it paid off.
Today, almost 150,000 residents are vaccinated. People across Anchorage are getting outside, getting back to work, and getting together with friends and family.
Now that things are feeling more normal, it’s easy to think that all of this progress was only a matter of time. But having sat in the mayor’s office in October of 2020, faced with critical decisions about the health of our community and our economy, I can tell you that none of this was a foregone conclusion.
We got here by pointing our compass toward the collective good, and by sacrificing and working together.
As I return to the Assembly and life outside of the mayor’s office, I leave with immense gratitude for my team and for the trust put in me by my colleagues and this community. Most importantly, I leave knowing that the way we get through our darkest days and to brighter ones is by doing the right thing—even when it is the hard thing.