Anchorage Mayor Dave Bronson said Tuesday that he’s appointing Alden Thern to the city’s chief fiscal officer position permanently.
Thern has been working as CFO in a temporary capacity since May, when former CFO Grant Yutrzenka resigned. Thern must still be approved in a confirmation vote of the Anchorage Assembly. Bronson told reporters Tuesday he expects that vote to take place in October.
Before becoming acting CFO, Thern was the city’s municipal projects director. He’s worked for the city since 2015, when former Mayor Ethan Berkowitz hired him as deputy CFO. Prior to that, Thern spent 15 years working for the Anchorage School District in various administrative roles.
Thern “has proven to be an incredible asset to the (municipality) over the years, and has accomplished some major wins recently,” Bronson said.
Those include so far securing $77 million in reimbursements from the Federal Emergency Management Agency and from the state for the city’s pandemic response, and $1.2 million in funds after the 2018 earthquake, Bronson said.
Despite previous concerns from some officials about how much FEMA would ultimately reimburse, the city is on track to recoup roughly $125 million total in reimbursements for its pandemic-related expenses, about 98% of what the city spent.
“Additionally, Alden was critical in getting the terminal one of the Port of Alaska design and surcharge and tariff concept passed by the Assembly, and contributed to the (city’s) purchase of the downtown police department building,” Bronson said.
The CFO, as the top executive of the Finance Department, oversees the financial activity of the municipality. That includes overseeing the divisions of Controller, Property Appraisal, Public Finance and Investments and Treasury, and the Purchasing Department.
Bronson also announced the departure next month of Office of Management and Budget director Courtney Petersen, who has been responsible for overseeing the city’s budget since June 2022. Petersen is moving to a new role with the city as the Public Works administration manager in the Community Development Department, Bronson said.
Bronson’s first CFO, Travis Frisk, resigned one year into the administration. After Yutrzenka took over, he resigned after less than one year on the job.
The municipality has also been struggling with high staff vacancy rates across several departments, including in Finance. Earlier this year, half the staff positions in the Controller Division were vacant, and the city contracted with a private firm for up to $2 million in professional accounting services — much more costly than the city staff who normally accomplish the work.
Thern said Tuesday that despite numerous vacancies, the city has avoided spending on that contract by using overtime and bringing some former employees back.
“We are a little bit behind where we want to be on our financials because of the staff that we lost, but we’re building the department back up again,” he said.
“I hope to continue the positive and collaborative relationship that I’ve developed with the Assembly over the last eight years that I’ve worked with the Municipality of Anchorage,” Thern told reporters Tuesday. “And I really look forward to working with the administration and the various departments to meet the financial needs of the (municipality) for the benefit of the citizens of Anchorage.”