Anchorage

Anchorage Mayor Bronson appoints municipal attorney with history of supporting right-wing causes

Anchorage Mayor Dave Bronson on Tuesday appointed an outspoken right-wing lawyer, Mario Bird, as Anchorage’s new municipal attorney, filling outgoing city attorney Patrick Bergt’s position.

Bergt recently resigned as city attorney for a position with Alaska Communications, according to the mayor’s office. Bronson announced Bird’s appointment in a written statement on Tuesday, along with two other appointments of directors who will oversee the Office of Management and Budget and the Parks and Recreation Department.

Bird, who is registered as Republican in the Alaska voter database, has a lengthy history in conservative politics in Alaska.

Bird was born in Soldotna and raised on the Kenai Pensinsula, according to the mayor’s office. His father, Bob Bird, is chairman of the Alaska Independence Party and a longtime anti-abortion activist who is known for his political talk radio show on KSRM in Kenai.

Mario Bird is described online as a “legal analyst” for the Alaska Watchman, a right-wing website, and he has published several articles on the site. He practices law “on behalf of freedom and religious causes, including the Alliance Defending Freedom,” according to his brief biography on the website.

The Alliance Defending Freedom is a conservative Christian legal advocacy group that argues religious liberty cases and challenges LGBTQ rights nationwide, including in a recent lawsuit over recent changes to Anchorage’s anti-discrimination laws on behalf of a local faith-based homeless shelter for women.

In 2020, Bird represented a group of Anchorage residents who sued the municipality and the Assembly for shutting down Assembly meetings to in-person participation under a COVID-19 emergency order by former Mayor Ethan Berkowitz. The city and the group, Alaskans for Open Meetings, reached a settlement in the lawsuit in April, under the Bronson administration.

Bird is also the Anchorage attorney who, last year, sent a letter to Providence Alaska executives demanding a local conservative political activist be given ivermectin as treatment for COVID-19.

He has been a leader in a conservative judicial reform movement that seeks to change Alaska’s system of judicial appointments. Bird has published opinion pieces on the subject on the Alaska Watchman website.

According to the mayor’s office, Bird has been an attorney for 10 years. The mayor’s office said he received his Juris Doctor from the Ave Maria School of Law, a Catholic law school in Naples, Florida, where he served on its law review.

The municipal attorney heads the city’s legal department and provides legal counsel to the city, including the mayor, Assembly and departments and agencies. The position is appointed by the mayor and later confirmed by a vote of the Anchorage Assembly.

The mayor also announced his appointment of Courtney Petersen to oversee the Office of Management and Budget. Former budget director Cheryl Frasca had retired in May after working in the position for about five months. Petersen grew up in Dutch Harbor and had previously worked for the municipality as a budget analyst for nine years, according to the mayor’s office.

Bronson also appointed Michael Braniff to head Parks and Recreation. Outgoing director Josh Durand is moving to Colorado with his family, according to the mayor’s office. Braniff previously spent 13 years “managing work projects and activities with parks throughout Anchorage,” the mayor’s office said.

“I appreciate the hard work, dedication, and commitment that Cheryl, Patrick, and Josh displayed in their roles for the Municipality of Anchorage,” Bronson said in the statement. “I thank them and their families for their sacrifices to make our city a better place. I look forward to the additions of Courtney, Mario, and Michael to the administration and seeing them display their skillsets for the benefit of the Municipality.”

Daily News reporter Michelle Theriault Boots contributed.

Emily Goodykoontz

Emily Goodykoontz is a reporter covering Anchorage local government and general assignments. She previously covered breaking news at The Oregonian in Portland before joining ADN in 2020. She earned her degree in journalism from the University of Oregon. Contact her at egoodykoontz@adn.com.

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