As Alaskans, we’re familiar with making our way through uncharted waters. But last year stretched even the toughest of us.
A deadly pandemic, high unemployment, businesses struggling to stay open. A mayor’s resignation and rising tension in our Assembly chambers. Perfect storm conditions.
There’s no question that last year took us through some of the roughest conditions our city has ever faced.
We are fortunate that Austin Quinn-Davidson took the helm as acting mayor in October 2020, at the start of a dark winter and only partway through a pandemic that left local governments with challenges of historic proportion.
When Austin took office, case counts were rising and unemployment remained high. Health and economic experts alike told us that the best strategy was not to ignore the pandemic, but to face it head-on.
Austin listened and got to work right away, setting a course that would lower COVID-19 cases and ultimately allow businesses to open back up safely. She led the distribution of critical federal relief dollars, first through the CARES Act and, more recently, through the American Rescue Plan Act.
Always thinking about our families and children, she shared information about rent and mortgage assistance, fast-tracked child care assistance grants, and distributed vouchers to families in need for necessities like gas and groceries. She supported the allocation of millions of dollars in grants to help as many local businesses as possible keep their doors open.
When faced with tough decisions, she never wavered. She pulled together economic, business and health experts, listened to the needs of the community, and made difficult decisions under high pressure. She did all of this with confidence and compassion.
Having served in elected office, we know what it’s like to make tough decisions on behalf of constituents. Even in normal times, such decisions can feel heavy. As Austin’s friends, we are proud — and unsurprised — that she was able to lead our city through some of its most challenging days under thankless circumstances.
As Acting Mayor Quinn-Davidson transitions back to the Anchorage Assembly, let us reflect on the progress we’ve made together. We must keep fighting for families and small businesses. We must champion diversity of thought and prioritize listening and learning over shouting. A strong economy and community require all hands on deck.
Austin never lost sight of where we needed to go. She and her team kept us above water while pointing us toward a post-pandemic Anchorage: not only a healthy community, but a safe, vibrant city with a diverse population and a strong local economy.
Now that the waters are calmer and the days are brighter, let’s not forget the sacrifices that got us here. Thank you to each and every one of you reading this now, who made tough sacrifices to get here. And thank you to Austin Quinn-Davidson for leading us through the storm.
Rep. Ivy Spohnholz represents House District 16 in East Anchorage, is a third-generation Alaskan and loves Anchorage, where she and her husband Troy raised their three children. Eric Croft is a former member of the Alaska House of Representatives, the Anchorage Assembly and the School Board. Eric is Joanna’s husband, and Burke and Shannon’s father.
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