Anchorage

In a switch-up of 3 top city officials, Anchorage Mayor Bronson names new homeless coordinator

Homelessness

Anchorage Mayor Dave Bronson on Wednesday said he is switching up the roles of three of his top executives.

Bronson’s chief of staff, Alexis Johnson, will become the city’s new homeless coordinator in the Anchorage Health Department, according to a written statement from the mayor’s office. The city’s director of economic and community development, Adam Trombley, will take Johnson’s role in the mayor’s office, while Lance Wilber, the director of public works, will take over for Trombley and lead the Office of Economic and Community Development. Wilber will oversee the public works and building services departments, according to the mayor’s office.

The changes are immediate, according to the mayor’s office. As the city’s homeless coordinator, Johnson will lead the administration’s homelessness response.

“The operational nucleus to address (homelessness) is being moved from City Hall to the Anchorage Health Department, which currently has a dedicated team focused on successful outcomes,” Bronson said in a written statement. “Alexis has the compassion, dedication, and commitment to work and partner with the Anchorage Assembly and community partners to truly help our city’s most vulnerable get connected to the treatment, services, and permanent housing they need to succeed.”

As Bronson’s chief of staff, Johnson has helped in leading and implementing several of his key homelessness-related projects and policies. Those include the city’s navigation center and shelter in East Anchorage that is currently being constructed; the administration’s repurposing of Centennial Park Campground into a sanctioned camp for homeless residents as it shut down the Sullivan Arena mass shelter in June; and the development of Bronson’s proposed emergency winter shelter plans for the more than 350 individuals currently experiencing unsheltered homelessness.

The mayor’s office did not immediately respond to questions about who Johnson is replacing in the health department, or whether the administration will choose a new director of public works to fulfill Wilber’s previous role.

The Bronson administration has been heavily criticized by Assembly members, community groups and residents for shuttering Sullivan without an alternative shelter plan in place and moving about 60 people from the Sullivan shelter into the East Anchorage campground. The Bronson administration has also refused to treat the East Anchorage camp as an official homelessness response, providing none of the services the city had in its mass shelter. That’s elicited further sharp criticism from Assembly members and residents, and left social service organizations, community groups and Anchorage residents scrambling to to meet basic needs of the 200-plus people living unsheltered in the campground.

[Anchorage Mayor Bronson reverses course on plan to use Spenard and Fairview rec centers for emergency homeless shelters]

Now, the administration faces a deadline in Anchorage city code to stand up more shelter or housing. The law requires officials to open emergency shelter once temperatures drop below 45 degrees and “when a lack of available shelter options poses a danger to the life and health of unsheltered people.”

Johnson presented Bronson’s proposal for sheltering options to the Assembly’s Committee on Housing and Homelessness last week. Multiple Assembly members and community groups pushed back against many aspects of the plan over viability and impacts to neighborhoods. The city’s options for winter shelter are not yet decided. Assembly members and a task force of community groups are working with Johnson and the administration to continue developing a feasible plan.

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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