Anchorage prosecutor tapped to head state alcohol-control agency

Devin Kelly

Anchorage’s municipal prosecutor has been tapped to serve as the new director of the statewide agency that regulates the alcohol business and enforces Alaska liquor laws.  

Cynthia Franklin on Thursday accepted Gov. Sean Parnell’s nomination. The governor announced her appointment to the helm of the state Alcoholic Beverage Control Board on Friday. She assumes the post Sept. 22.

“Cynthia's professional expertise, coupled with her ability to work effectively with a wide array of agencies and members of the public, makes her the ideal candidate to lead the ABC Board,” Parnell said in a statement issued by his office.

The agency is also anticipated to take charge of marijuana regulation if voters choose to decriminalize pot.

Franklin fills a position vacated by Shirley Cote, who stepped down in May. Cote was among those critical of the agency’s 2012 move from the Department of Public Safety to the more business-oriented Commerce Department, saying the shift would weaken the board’s focus on enforcement.

On Friday, another of those critics, Jeff Jessee, director of the Alaska Mental Health Trust, praised the governor’s selection of Franklin to lead the board.

“Her legal background and balanced approach will be a tremendous asset to the ABC board,” Jessee said. “I can’t imagine a better choice for this important position.”

Franklin has already been involved with the board in an advisory role, serving on an underage drinking subcommittee with the ABC board's stakeholder group. The group consists of about 60 volunteers who review updates to laws and policies governing the board and have been involved with revising Title IV, the section of state law governing alcoholic beverages.

Franklin, 50, was born in Texas, grew up in Oklahoma and earned a law degree from Baylor University School of Law. In Texas, she worked for the district attorney offices in Bell and Bexar counties. She moved to Alaska in 2007 to work for the Anchorage district attorney’s office.

In 2008, she went to work as an attorney for the city in the domestic violence unit.

In the last two and a half years, Franklin helped write legislation outlawing the designer drug spice and worked with the Anchorage School District to toughen truancy laws.

She pushed to digitize her office, an effort expected to coalesce in December with the launch of an electronic discovery system. Franklin also led a major revision of Anchorage penal code to allow the city to prosecute a larger volume of misdemeanor offenses.  

In an interview, Franklin said she’s looking forward to starting her new job, saying she supports giving state statutes regulating alcohol a “hard look.”

“I think what’s most important about these regulations is that they’re enforced consistently and fairly,” Franklin said in describing the board’s balancing act between regulating a legal industry and curbing alcohol’s negative impacts. As the Anchorage municipal prosecutor, Franklin said she’s seen “many, many” offenses that are fueled by alcohol.

She added: “It’s the right time for the director position to have an attorney at the helm.”