Welcome to City Hall, Dan Sullivan.
The seventh mayor elected since the 1975 unification of Anchorage's old city and borough governments takes the oath of office today. He inherits a city with an iffy economy, flattening property values, shrunken budget reserves and employees working under a series of new controversial union contracts he had no hand in negotiating.
Sullivan promises a more austere municipal government and said he aims to buck a trend of the last several years and bring a smaller city budget to the table this fall. He will try to do that surrounded by many old hands, people who have worked in city and state government for years, including at least one top executive who worked for his father.
He takes office two weeks after his 58th birthday, and 27 years after his father, George Sullivan, left office as the new municipality's first mayor.
"It's very exciting, not only for me but for the family," Sullivan said. "That's important for our family, to have that continuity of public service."
In interviews and press conferences since his election May 5, Sullivan has said he and his executive team will scrape deep into the bureaucracy looking for "efficiencies" and ways to cut spending while paying higher rates for wages and benefits.
"Exactly how we're going to do it, we don't know yet," Sullivan said Saturday.
Is government going to get smaller?
"You hate to say definitely," he said. "But I'm not sure how you can bring in a smaller budget, with the contracts increasing, without probably looking at the size of the workforce. So probably yes, we're looking at a smaller workforce in city government.
"It's not an easy thing to do, but city government is not a job center," he said. "It's a service center."
Sullivan's executives will be paid less than the people they are replacing. The mayor's salary is fixed by a city commission; Sullivan said he'll donate part of it to charities.
"We're going to lead from the top on that," he said. "We're doing it from the get-go right at the top."
City employees from the top down will do less traveling and more teleconferencing.
"Under the Begich administration, travel went from $800,000 a year to almost a million and a half a year," Sullivan said. "We can cut travel tomorrow and save a million bucks. People don't need to be traveling off to conferences, whether it's the mayor or anybody else. There's nothing essential out there for the next year or two that can't be found online or in the periodicals."
Sullivan told voters his administration will concentrate less on building big new public facilities and more on maintaining and repairing the ones the city has. One exception, he said, might be replacing the city's aging Health and Human Services building at Eighth Avenue and L Street.
"That building is not only beyond its useful life, but it's a pretty prime chunk of property," Sullivan said. "If we could relocate (the health department) onto a public parcel somewhere and get that onto the private tax rolls, we'd kind of kill two birds with one stone there."
Like all of the mayors who preceded him, Sullivan said he wants to see Anchorage become "one of the great northern cities."
Getting there requires four things, he said.
The first is sound city financing, "so the public trusts how you're spending their money. They'll support your bonds when they trust you."
A safer community is also high on his list. Overall crime rates have declined in recent years, but several categories of violent crimes and assaults have gone up, he said. And he wants to take "a zero tolerance policy" to street crimes, panhandlers and public inebriates.
"There's folks who think there's no harm, no foul with the public inebriates, but there is," he said, adding that he'd like to see courts enforce laws against being drunk in public.
"Being a public inebriate has got to have some sort of ... penalty associated with it," he said.
Third, he said, the city needs to look good. That means maintaining the parks, trails and public facilities already in place.
"If you're looking shabby, you'll never be a great city," he said. "You've got to build things and take care of them, and have that as an ongoing process."
Then there's energy, the fourth and maybe the biggest pillar for his vision of Anchorage's future.
"We have got to have an energy plan for Southcentral," Sullivan said. "There's a lot of options out there with hydro and (natural) gas, we've got more coal than the rest of the United States combined.
"We're so rich that we can't make a decision, and we've got to make a decision."
Contact reporter Don Hunter at firstname.lastname@example.org or 257-4349.