Popp, Anchorage economic development official, latest to join mayor’s race

Bill Popp filed paperwork with the Alaska elections agency on Tuesday to run for mayor in Anchorage’s 2024 city election.

Popp is the fourth major candidate to enter the race, alongside incumbent Mayor Dave Bronson, former Assembly Chair Suzanne LaFrance, and former Democratic state lawmaker and House majority leader Chris Tuck. A fifth candidate, Darin Colbry, has also filed paperwork for the 2024 race.

At a campaign kickoff in downtown Anchorage, Popp pitched his background in economic development and familiarity with local government as core parts of his appeal.

“I’ve thought about this idea for a while, and it struck me this year that our city needs to recapture its direction and its vision. We just really have lost our way, we are more about dealing with issues and problems in the now, as opposed to thinking about tomorrow,” Popp said.

Popp spent 16 years leading the Anchorage Economic Development Corp., a prominent nonprofit that advocates for business and industry-friendly policies in the municipality and Southcentral Alaska. In addition to publishing economic reports, the corporation regularly hosts luncheons for the business community that put Popp in front of many of the state’s civic leaders and power players. He officially retired from the position last week.

During his remarks, Popp said he’s focused on several major issues confronting the city, including rebuilding the municipal workforce, getting local government “to become boring again,” restoring the relationship between the mayor’s office and Assembly, attracting more businesses, and retaining a skilled workforce, particularly young people.

“It’s going to be all hands on deck,” he said of proposals for solving homelessness in Anchorage, which includes enlisting help from the private sector.


Though City Hall plays a relatively minor role in policy decisions within the Anchorage School District, Popp said that if he’s elected, the mayor’s office would be “a cheerleader on steroids” for education.

Popp grew up in Anchorage and graduated from East High School after his family moved to Alaska with the Air Force when he was a child.

Before joining AEDC, Popp spent a chunk of his career on the Kenai Peninsula, serving on the borough assembly for six years and working for two borough mayors’ administrations.

Anchorage’s mayoral elections are technically nonpartisan. Popp is not registered with any major political party, and in the past he has made political contributions to Republican, Democratic and independent candidates ranging from former mayors Dan Sullivan and Ethan Berkowitz to Mark Begich during his 2018 gubernatorial campaign and a few moderate Republican state legislators.

Close observers of next year’s municipal election — where a candidate has to earn 45% of the vote to win outright or else proceed to a head-to-head contest with the second-highest vote-getter — think that the more crowded the field gets, the greater the chance it will go to a runoff in May.

“Odds are it’s probably gonna be a runoff,” Popp said of the emerging dynamic.

Campaign observers critical of the current administration are concerned that right-leaning voters could pool around the lone conservative candidate, Bronson, and help him reach 45% of the vote at the jump.

“I continue to think that Dave Bronson’s best chance to win reelection is to win in the first round with the center-left splitting the vote,” said John-Henry Heckendorn, founder of the Ship Creek Group, which has managed campaigns for moderate and progressive candidates, though is not working with any of the current mayoral hopefuls.

“Polling that I’ve seen has suggested that (Bronson) has really struggled,” Heckendorn said. “But we also know that incumbents can have low job approval ratings, but when their base has to make a decision about them relative to another candidate, they can come home.”

The municipal deadline for candidates to file in the April 2 election is Jan. 26, 2024.

[Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly identified Chris Tuck’s leadership position in the state House.]

Zachariah Hughes

Zachariah Hughes covers Anchorage government, the military, dog mushing, subsistence issues and general assignments for the Anchorage Daily News. He also helps produce the ADN's weekly politics podcast. Prior to joining the ADN, he worked in Alaska’s public radio network, and got his start in journalism at KNOM in Nome.