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Anchorage

Anchorage Assembly swears in new members, elects Dick Traini as chair

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  • Updated: April 18
  • Published April 18

Alaska Supreme Court Chief Justice Craig Stowers swears in Anchorage Assembly members Fred Dyson, Felix Rivera, Christopher Constant, Suzanne LaFrance, Pete Peterson and Tim Steele at the Loussac Library on Tuesday. (Bob Hallinen / Alaska Dispatch News)

Veteran Anchorage Assemblyman Dick Traini was elected as chair of Assembly Tuesday night, resuming a post he's held five times over a career that's spanned nearly two decades.

East Anchorage Assemblyman Forrest Dunbar, who is starting his second year on the Assembly, was elected vice-chair.

Both votes were conducted among the 11 Assembly members by secret ballot.

Traini's logged a lot of time as chair. He held the position from 1993 to 1995, 2001 to 2005, 2010 to 2011 and most recently, December 2014 to April 2016. He also served as vice-chair when his fellow Midtown representative, Elvi Gray-Jackson, was elected chair. Gray-Jackson did not run for office again this year because of term limits; Traini has not yet reached his term limit because he has not served three consecutive terms.

"I like to make sure the Assembly works the way it should, the committee assignments work, and we get the business of the city done," Traini said after the meeting. "I enjoy doing it, and I have time to do it."

After he was elected as chair, Assemblyman John Weddleton, who owns a comic book shop in Spenard, ran over and gave Traini a plastic toy "gavel" labeled "Thor's Hammer."

The chair's main responsibilities include running Assembly meetings and setting up committees and their chairs, or as Traini put it, "making this body run peacefully and successfully."

In addition to selecting leadership, the Assembly certified the results of the April 4 city election and swore in the four newly elected members Tuesday night: Christopher Constant (downtown), Fred Dyson (Chugiak-Eagle River), Suzanne LaFrance (South Anchorage) and Felix Rivera (Midtown).   

This wasn't Dyson's first time. Dyson served two terms on the Assembly between 1985 and 1991 before being elected to the state Legislature. He retired from the state Senate in 2014. He recalled in an interview that the Assembly meetings moved from the Tudor area to the current chambers in the Loussac Library during his tenure. 

Constant said in his first formal remarks as an assemblyman that Anchorage has "crossed a new threshold" by electing himself and Felix Rivera as the city's first openly gay elected representatives.

"The process was long and hard," Constant said. "This city has gone back and forth for 40 years determining representation for LGBT people should be equal and that protections should be provided under law. And we've gotten there, and we've taken the next step."

Anchorage Assembly Chair Elvi Gray-Jackson gets a standing ovation as she leads her last meeting of the Assembly at Loussac Library on Tuesday. Dick Traini, to her right, was elected the new chair. (Bob Hallinen / Alaska Dispatch News)

For the outgoing Assembly members — Gray-Jackson, Patrick Flynn, Bill Evans and Bill Starr — there were some emotional farewells. Flynn choked up while thanking his family, Assemblywoman Amy Demboski had to pause several times while thanking Gray-Jackson for her leadership and friendship, and Gray-Jackson asked City Clerk Barbara Jones to read her notes because she was "tired of crying — I've been crying all day."

Outgoing Anchorage Assembly Chair Elvi Gray-Jackson and Anchorage Municipal Clerk Barbara Jones share a moment after Gray-Jackson led her last meeting of the Assembly at the Loussac Library on Tuesday. (Bob Hallinen / Alaska Dispatch News)

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