In a major shakeup for Anchorage city leadership, Mayor Dave Bronson announced Monday morning that Amy Demboski will no longer serve as municipal manager.
“Anchorage Mayor Dave Bronson today named Kent Kohlhase Acting Municipal Manager. He will take over for Amy Demboski effective immediately,” read a statement from the mayor’s office, in its entirety.
No reason was given for the abrupt shuffle, which will have significant implications for day-to-day handling of city affairs.
It was not immediately clear if Demboski will continue to serve the administration in a different capacity. Calls to Demboski went unanswered Monday morning.
In response to a message asking whether Demboski resigned or if she was fired, and if the administration is planning to provide more information on her departure, a spokesman for Bronson said in a text message, “this is a personnel matter. We have no further comment.”
Since the start of Bronson’s tenure in July 2021, Demboski has guided the city’s administrative policy. A former Assembly member representing Eagle River-Chugiak, Demboski ran an unsuccessful campaign for mayor after making it to a runoff against former Mayor Ethan Berkowitz in 2015. She left the Assembly to work for Republican Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s administration shortly after he took office in 2018.
Demboski was a hands-on municipal manager, regularly meeting with department heads on detailed matters of policy. She regularly filled in for Bronson to represent the administration in contentious discussions with the Assembly, which holds a liberal-leaning majority and has resisted the mayor’s agenda on numerous occasions.
In the first months of his tenure as mayor, Bronson said in public remarks, “I don’t run the city ... Amy Demboski runs the city.”
Kohlhase only recently was appointed to the head of public works in November after working as the director of project management and engineering. The Assembly had held a confirmation hearing for Kohlhase for the public works position on Friday.
Assembly Vice Chair Chris Constant said Monday he is “certainly waiting for a rationale from the administration for why they have switched municipal managers.”
“There are lots of questions about the mayor’s compliance with the code. We have seen example after example of loose compliance with or flagrant violation of the code,” Constant added.
Constant pointed to the Bronson administration’s move this year to proceed with construction on an East Anchorage homeless shelter without first getting Assembly approval for a multimillion-dollar upgrade to the contract, and that there were more people using the Sullivan Arena’s emergency shelter and warming area than the Assembly had authorized beds for when the mayor requested to increase the shelter’s capacity.
“It is very concerning to me, and this is one more step in the ongoing conversation about the mayor’s willingness to fulfill his oath,” Constant said.
Demboski oversaw city administration amid numerous controversies, including Bronson’s decision last year to temporarily shut off fluoridation of the city’s water supply; an incident when she ordered a city employee to shut off a livestreamed video feed of a chaotic Assembly meeting on a proposed mask ordinance; this summer’s shutdown of the Sullivan Arena shelter and the transport of homeless residents to an East Anchorage campground with limited resources; the resignation of the city’s former health department director as an investigation revealed he had fabricated large parts of his resume; and the city’s recent struggle to plow roads following a series of snowstorms, despite being warned of staffing issues in summer.