Ethan Berkowitz was sworn in as Anchorage's new mayor Wednesday afternoon in a downtown inauguration ceremony that incorporated his family and displayed the cultural diversity of the city.
Jack Roderick, who was mayor of the Greater Anchorage Borough from 1972 to 1975, administered the oath of office to Berkowitz. Several hundred people, including city employees, community leaders and nearly all of Anchorage's living mayors, packed into Town Square Park and stood on grassy knolls to watch speeches and music and dance performances.
Berkowitz's 14-year-old daughter, Ziva Berkowitz Kimmel, sang "Alaska's Flag" in a duet with her vocal coach Mari Hahn, director of the University of Alaska Anchorage's Opera Ensemble. His son, 11-year-old Noah Berkowitz Kimmel, gave a speech introducing his father and talked about winning an argument with his dad over the pronunciation of the word "proverb."
"I should introduce your next mayor, Noah Berkowitz," Ethan Berkowitz said as he took to the podium.
In his first speech as mayor, Berkowitz sprinkled in language he'd used throughout his campaign, such as "our Anchorage" and "safe, strong and secure." He spoke of his vision for a "new Anchorage … measured less by how we overcome the challenges of our time … measured more by how we treat one another."
Berkowitz also called for unity in the face of coming challenges.
"Now is the time to find our better angels, to find perspective, to rise above the immediacy and smallness of the moment," Berkowitz said. "Now is the time to prove bigger than our differences."
Berkowitz's friend Georgianna Lincoln, the only Alaska Native woman to be elected a state senator, also spoke at the ceremony. Nearly all of the living former Anchorage mayors were present -- Roderick, Tony Knowles, Rick Mystrom, George Wuerch, Mark Begich, Matt Claman and Dan Sullivan, with only Tom Fink absent. Berkowitz on Wednesday became the ninth mayor since the municipality was created in 1975.
Most of the Anchorage Assembly attended the ceremony. Amy Demboski, who ran for mayor but lost to Berkowitz in a May runoff, was not present, nor were Bill Starr and Jennifer Johnston.
As cloudy skies above downtown Anchorage gave way to sunshine, performers from the Native Heritage Center Dancers and the hip-hop Underground Dance Company closed out the more formal part of the inauguration.
When it ended, Sullivan, finishing his sixth year as mayor, immediately rose, walked to the stage and shook Berkowitz's hand.