Anchorage Mayor-elect LaFrance names 2 more top city executives

Anchorage Mayor-elect Suzanne LaFrance on Monday announced her picks for municipal attorney and a newly created executive role of chief administrative officer.

Bill Falsey, who served as municipal attorney and city manager under former Mayor Ethan Berkowitz’s administration, will take on the job of chief administrative officer.

Local attorney Eva Gardner will assume leadership of the city’s Department of Law as municipal attorney.

Both Gardner and Falsey will face an Assembly confirmation vote sometime after July 1, which is when LaFrance takes office. In May, LaFrance won the runoff race for mayor against incumbent Dave Bronson.

“Good government is one of our team’s top priorities coming into office,” LaFrance said in a statement. “Eva and Bill bring the experience and leadership needed to deliver an effective and accountable local government.”

Gardner has been a managing shareholder at law firm Ashburn & Mason, P.C., working there since 2013, according to a news release from LaFrance. She is co-chair of the of the Alaska Bar Association’s Employment Law Section, serves on the Alaska Court System’s Civil Rules Committee and on an advisory committee for the University of Alaska Anchorage’s legal studies program.

Gardner received her law degree from New York University and worked as a law clerk for Judge Sharon Gleason, in both Alaska Superior Court and U.S. District Court.


Gardner will replace Municipal Attorney Anne Helzer, who Mayor Dave Bronson appointed in early 2023.

The department has been struggling with high numbers of vacancies.

“My hope for that Department of Law is that I can bring in new energy, do some really good recruiting and work to make it match the vision that I have of it as really one of the best legal workplaces in the city,” Gardner said in an interview.

At Ashburn & Mason, Gardner’s practice has largely focused on employment law, constitutional law, real estate and commercial disputes.

She’s represented two municipal executives in wrongful termination lawsuits who were fired under the Bronson administration and later received settlements: Heather MacAlpine, former director of the city Office of Equal Opportunity, now associate ombudsman with the city, and Christina Hendrickson, who was briefly director of real estate.

“That’s part of my motivation in joining the municipal government — to help make good policies and make good government and a government that really serves its people and its employees well,” Gardner said.

Other notable cases Gardner has worked include two related to the state’s redistricting effort in 2022, one representing Girdwood residents and another Calista Corp. As an attorney with Ashburn & Mason, she also assisted with Alaskan John Sturgeon’s cases against the National Park Service over its authority over navigable waters in the Yukon-Charley Rivers National Preserve, which he won in U.S. Supreme Court.

Falsey currently works as a private practice attorney, which has included some recent contracted work for the Anchorage Assembly. He has a law degree from Yale.

As chief administrative officer, Falsey will “work closely” with the municipal manager. He will “oversee key internal operations, include the city’s financial, human resources and information technology functions,” according to the news release.

Last week, LaFrance appointed former municipal attorney Becky Windt Pearson to serve as Anchorage’s municipal manager and Katie Scovic, who was LaFrance’s campaign manager, to serve as chief of staff.

Windt Pearson led the city’s Department of Law as municipal attorney from 2017 to 2020 in the Berkowitz administration, taking the role over from Falsely when he switched to the municipal manager position.

Falsey left the job shortly after Berkowitz’s resignation in 2020. Falsey ran for mayor in 2021 and lost during the regular election.

While a chief administrative officer position will be a new role in the city’s current organizational chart, positions of the same title and similar functions previously existed in the 1980s and ’90s.

Falsey said the position was designed in collaboration with LaFrance, Scovic and Windt Pearson, and he will work “hand in glove” with the municipal manager. His focus is to ensure that “the internal systems are working as well as they can be,” he said.

The Bronson administration has been struggling to fill numerous vacancies in many departments, and an annual audit of the city’s financials is now late by about a year.

“I think the initial task is just getting the machine back in good working order. And part of the chief administrative officer role will I think is designed to address that, which is just so many challenges on the financial reporting front, on the vacancies front, up and down the line,” Falsey said.

Asked, as a former Berkowitz official, if Falsey sees LaFrance as pursuing similar policies, he said, “this is going to be a LaFrance administration, not anybody else’s.”

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. Contact her at