Following the Anchorage Assembly’s rejection of Mayor Dave Bronson’s choice for city librarian earlier this week, the mayor has announced a new pick for the position: Judy Norton Eledge, a longtime educator and president of the Anchorage Republican Women’s Club.
Eledge is active in conservative politics and in Anchorage’s April election drew controversy over social media posts.
Bronson’s appointment of Eledge is a choice that will again draw scrutiny from Assembly members. Like Sami Graham, Bronson’s previous pick, Eledge does not have a master’s degree in library science or seven years of professional library experience, two minimum requirements for the position, according to the city’s job posting.
The Bronson administration had argued that Graham’s other experience as an Anchorage principal and teacher qualified her for the position, and in a statement sent Friday gave similar reasoning for appointing Eledge.
Bronson in the statement said literacy and reading should be a top priority for the city’s library, and said that he is committed to appointing a director with the “background and experience to help refresh and refocus our children’s attention on reading.”
“Like Sami Graham, Judy Norton Eledge is immensely qualified for the role of Library Director. She brings to the Municipality decades of leadership and educational experience, at the state and local level, including as a teacher, school administrator, and champion for literacy and reading,” Bronson said in the statement. “While some members of the Assembly will balk at Judy’s nomination, our administration will continue advocating for Library leadership we believe will best facilitate and promote literacy and lifelong learning.”
Assembly Vice Chair Chris Constant, who voted in favor of confirming Graham, said lack of experience and qualifications led the Assembly to reject Graham as a candidate. Constant said he also has concerns about Eledge’s qualifications and said the Assembly will likely reject Eledge for similar reasons as Graham.
“It looks like the mayor has doubled down on a decision the Assembly already rejected. It’s clear that all he wants to do is play politics. He doesn’t have the best interests of the library or the people of Anchorage at heart. It’s a sad day for Anchorage,” Constant said.
Eledge and Graham both ran for positions on the Anchorage School Board during the April election and lost, briefly running together as part of a slate of conservative candidates.
Immediately after the Assembly rejected Graham, Bronson announced that she will serve as his chief of staff.
According to a resume provided by the mayor’s office, Eledge has worked as an educator in Anchorage and rural Alaska since the 1980s, including as a teacher and principal in the Anchorage School District, as assistant principal on the North Slope and as a principal in the Copper River School District, among other positions.
She was also an Alaska delegate in the 2016 Republican National Convention and in the 2020 national election, and she cast a vote as a Republican Alaska elector in the Electoral College.
Alaska’s Department of Education and Early Development holds a contract with Eledge, through her business Education Solutions Simplified, through Dec. 31 of this year.
Soon after announcing her candidacy for Anchorage School Board Seat B in January, Eledge drew public scrutiny for social media posts on her personal Facebook page as screenshots of the posts began circulating on Twitter and Facebook. Once screenshot of a post denounced mask-wearing and said “our kids would have and still would get good Tennessee ass whoppings if they acted like whimps!”
At the time, Eledge called the controversy a “smear campaign” and said that posts had been taken out of context, claiming that some screenshots had been altered, but did not give further explanation or say which posts had been altered.
Assembly Chair Suzanne LaFrance, who voted against confirming Graham after citing concern over her qualifications, said on Friday by text message that the Assembly will use the same standard to review Eledge’s nomination.
“There are minimum qualifications required for this position. I look forward to the confirmation hearing when we can learn more,” LaFrance said.