Anchorage’s appointed library director, Judy Norton Eledge, has resigned, Mayor Dave Bronson’s office said Friday.
Bronson appointed Eledge, a longtime Alaska educator, in August, after a scuffle with the Anchorage Assembly over his first choice for library director, Sami Graham. The Assembly refused to confirm Graham, saying she failed to meet minimum qualifications for the position, and Bronson immediately named Graham his chief of staff.
Assembly members have also said they had the same concerns about Eledge’s qualifications, who, like Graham, does not hold a degree in library sciences. Eledge had not yet been confirmed by the Assembly.
The mayor has asked Eledge to stay on as deputy director, according to a statement on Friday from Corey Allen Young, spokesman for the mayor.
“She didn’t want herself and her family going through what has been an unfair disparaging by the Anchorage Assembly of the mayor’s nominees during the confirmation process including the last nominee for the director of the library,” Young said.
The mayor’s office will conduct a “world wide search” to find a new director, he said.
Eledge is active in conservative politics and is president of the Anchorage Republican Women’s Club. She ran for a seat on the Anchorage School Board and lost in the April election. During the race, Eledge drew scrutiny over a series of controversial social media posts, including one that denounced mask-wearing and made light of corporal punishment as a parenting tool. Other posts made inflammatory comments about race, people of color and LGBTQ issues. Eledge claimed that some of the screenshots of her posts that were circulating on social media at the time had been altered but refused to say which ones or how they had been changed.
The Executive Council of the Alaska Library Association sent a letter to Assembly members in September about its concerns over Eledge’s appointment.
“The appointment of an individual who does not meet the qualifications defined in the position description is comparable to the appointment of a police or fire chief without any prior police or firefighting training or experience,” they wrote.
During its meeting Tuesday, the Assembly is set to take up an ordinance that would change how executive appointments like library director are made, giving the Assembly the power to schedule a confirmation vote, rather than having to wait for the mayor to submit the department head for approval.
Assembly members proposed the ordinance after clashing with Bronson over the qualifications of some of his executive appointments, including Graham and Eledge.
Some Assembly members say it would prevent mayors from appointing department heads and forgoing Assembly confirmation for long periods of time, circumventing the Assembly’s oversight of appointments.
The Bronson administration, in its 2022 city budget, has also proposed moving the Anchorage Public Library to become a division of Parks and Recreation. In a recent resolution sent to Assembly members, the Library Advisory Board opposed the move, citing concerns that a non-librarian would then oversee the library, among other concerns.
The Anchorage Assembly has confirmed the majority of Bronson’s executive appointments but has rejected two, including Graham, citing qualification concerns. Last week, the Assembly narrowly rejected the appointment of Jim Winegarner as real estate director over concerns that Winegarner lacked some of the necessary experience.
In August, Bronson’s appointed health department director resigned just before his confirmation vote after facing intense scrutiny from the Assembly over his qualifications and comments about the pandemic.
Eledge’s departure marks the fifth resignation of a Bronson administration official in recent weeks.
Craig Campbell, director of policy and programs, Bob Doehl, director of development services, Dr. John Morris, homelessness coordinator, and Stephanie Williams, boards and commissions director who had called Assembly members “criminals” in a Facebook post, all resigned last month.