Anchorage ombudsman tapped to become new city clerk

Kyle Hopkins

Barbara Jones, previously tasked with rebuilding the inefficient Anchorage ombudsman's office, has been named the new city clerk, Assembly chair Ernie Hall announced Wednesday.

Outgoing city clerk Barbara Gruenstein announced her resignation May 22 in the aftermath of the trouble-plagued election. As clerk, Gruenstein oversaw the April 3 citywide vote, during which more than half of Anchorage precincts ran out of ballots.

Jones has been selected to lead the clerk's office beginning July 1. In addition to running elections, the clerk fields ethics complaints and oversees business licensing, among other duties.

"(Jones) has an understanding of how municipal government works and knows the people within the municipality," Hall said in an interview.

The Assembly has voted to pay up to $30,000 to investigate the roots of the Election Day chaos. Hall fired one key election planner, deputy clerk Jaqueline Duke, on May 9.

Gruenstein offered to resign after serving nine years as clerk, a relatively long run in the politically appointed job.

No replacement has been named for Jones, who will leave her post as Anchorage ombudsman where her job is to mediate problems people have with city government or the School District.

Jones was hired as a temporary ombudsman in January 2011, and won the permanent job that May. A city audit that year found the ombudsman's office had previously been disorganized and inefficient, with a growing backlog of unresolved cases.

"Barbara was the one that we brought in to get that all cleaned up," Hall said. She performed well in that role, he said.

As clerk, Jones will make about $105,000, he said. Gruenstein made about $117,000 a year, according to the municipal employee relations department.

Jones' salary with the ombudsman's office was not immediately available. She previously worked 12 years as executive director and staff attorney for the Anchorage Equal Rights Commission, Hall said.

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