Two Anchorage Assembly members are leaving their terms early to take seats as newly elected members of the Alaska state Legislature in January. Assembly members will appoint temporary representatives to fill the departing members’ seats until voters elect new Assembly members during the upcoming regular city election.
The Assembly will choose representatives from the pool of applicants with a majority vote.
On Jan. 17, Assembly member Jamie Allard of Eagle River/Chugiak will be sworn in to the Alaska House, and member Forrest Dunbar of East Anchorage will be sworn into the state Senate. Allard will continue serving on the Assembly up until she is sworn in. Dunbar has submitted his resignation, effective Jan. 3.
Applications for Dunbar’s East Anchorage seat will open Wednesday and close at 5 p.m. Jan. 5, according to a statement from the Assembly. For Allard’s seat, applications open Jan. 10 and close on Jan. 17 at 5 p.m.
The Assembly then plans to publicly interview nominees who meet the minimum qualifications for temporary spots on the Assembly — those who are qualified voters in Anchorage and those who have been, for at least one year, residents of the district they are applying to represent.
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Assembly members will hold two special meetings to vote and choose the temporary members. The vote to fill Dunbar’s East Anchorage vacancy is scheduled for Jan. 6, and for Allard’s Eagle River/Chugiak seat, a vote is scheduled for Jan. 19.
“As they head Southeast, we have a duty to our neighbors in Eagle River/Chugiak and East Anchorage to fill their seats to ensure fair and equal representation in the months before the Regular Municipal Election,” Assembly Chair Suzanne LaFrance said in a written statement.
The appointed members will serve for just a few months, up until the results of Anchorage’s April 4 regular election are certified. Certification is scheduled for April 25.
In 2020, the Assembly was criticized by some residents because it did not appoint a temporary member to represent West Anchorage, after one of the area’s two representatives — member Austin Quinn-Davidson — did not serve as a voting member for about eight months of her term.
Quinn-Davidson was selected by the Assembly to serve as interim mayor for that time, after the resignation of former Mayor Ethan Berkowitz. The Assembly was also heavily criticized for not holding a special election to fill the vacant mayoral seat for the remainder of Berkowitz’s term.
Following that criticism and confusion over ambiguous language in the city’s charter that dictates how to fill suddenly empty mayoral seats, the Assembly in October approved sending voters a ballot proposition during the upcoming election. If passed by Anchorage voters in April, that proposition would add time-specific rules to the city’s charter for filling mayoral vacancies.
In past years, the Assembly has appointed temporary members to replace members who have resigned to take other jobs or elected offices. For example, in 2018 the Assembly picked Gretchen Wehmhoff to replace former member Amy Demboski, who then left to take a job as deputy chief of staff for Gov. Mike Dunleavy.