Anchorage Assembly Chair Austin Quinn-Davidson is set to make history when she steps into the role of acting mayor Friday.
The current mayor of Anchorage, Ethan Berkowitz, submitted his resignation last week after admitting to an inappropriate but consensual relationship with a local news anchor, according to KTUU.
“It is with profound sadness and humility that I resign as Mayor of the Municipality of Anchorage,” reads a Berkowitz statement from October 13. “My resignation results from unacceptable personal conduct that has compromised my ability to perform my duties with the focus and trust that is required.”
The resignation is effective Friday at 6 p.m. (10 p.m. ET). At that time, Quinn-Davidson will take on the role as acting mayor until a successor is named.
She will become the first Anchorage mayor who is female and openly gay.
“I received a text from my sister, who watched the meeting last night with a young girl, she’s about 6, and she sent me a picture with the young girl looking at the screen saying, ‘She looks like me,’ and I think that matters,” Quinn-Davidson told CNN affiliate KTUU. “It matters for all kinds of folks.”
Standing up for citizens
Quinn-Davidson is originally from a rural logging town in northern California moved to Anchorage in 2011. She told KTUU that after years of visiting, she decided she couldn’t live anywhere else.
The soon-to-be mayor is a lawyer by trade who specializes in land use and real estate law. Currently, she works for Great Land Trust, a non-profit that focuses on conserving lands and waterways in Southcentral Alaska. In 2018, she joined the assembly when she won a special election for one of West Anchorage’s assembly seats.
While she acknowledges the honor of being the city’s first female and openly gay mayor, Quinn-Davidson sais that right now her focus is on the citizens impacted by the coronavirus pandemic.
“I think my gender or my sexual orientation is sort of the least of the issues right now,” she said. “We have a pandemic on our hands, we have an economy that is in trouble and people are hurting. To me, this is less about whether I’m a woman or whether I have a wife or a husband and more about solving the problems in Anchorage.”
In her free time, she said, she likes to explore to the outdoors with her wife, Stephanie, and their two dogs.
Filling the vacant mayor’s seat
The assembly now has to decide on one of three options to fill the vacant mayor’s seat, according to the municipality’s charter.
- A special election on or after January 21, in which voters would elect a new mayor who will serve only until June 30.
- A regular election on April 6, but that successor wouldn’t take office until July 1.
- A regular election on April 6, but the successor takes office earlier than July 1.
The chair of the assembly serves as acting mayor in the meantime, according to the charter.
Last week, the assembly discussed the cost of a special election, which would be $350,000, and a run-off that could cost an additional $300,000.