Austin Quinn-Davidson will make history as Anchorage, Alaska’s first female and openly gay mayor.
Quinn-Davidson, 40, is the current chair of the Anchorage Assembly, a role she assumed last week following an Assembly vote.
The Assembly charter requires the chair to serve as acting mayor in the case of a vacancy, which occurred after Mayor Ethan Berkowitz resigned in the midst of intense criticism following a scandal involving inappropriate behavior between the mayor and a reporter, CBS News reports.
A relative political newcomer who was elected to the Assembly in 2018, Quinn-Davidson told KTUU that Anchorage residents are looking for a mayor “who’s calm, makes smart decisions, who cares about people, and who’s honest.”
She also acknowledged the history-making nature of assuming the role of interim mayor, saying, “I received a text from my sister, who watched the meeting last night with a young girl, she’s about six, and she sent me a picture with the young girl looking at the screen saying ‘she looks like me,’ and I think that matters. It matters for all kinds of folks.”
Quinn-Davidson also said that her sexuality isn’t important given the bigger issues facing the city, including the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
“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,” she said.
Quinn-Davidson will serve as mayor either until a special election is called in January, 90 days after Berkowitz’s resignation, or until the normal mayoral election is held in April, municipal attorney Kate Vogel told CBS News.
In his resignation statement, Berkowitz wrote, “I apologize to the people of Anchorage for a major lapse in judgment I made several years ago when I had a consensual, inappropriate messaging relationship with reporter Maria Athens. I’m embarrassed and ashamed for the hurt I’ve caused my family and our community. I take responsibility for my actions.”
Quinn-Davidson told KTUU that, in the wake of Berkowitz’s departure, she would be meeting with the city’s various department heads and “really getting into the swing of things before Mayor Berkowitz leaves.”
In addition, she will be meeting with and hearing from the municipality’s residents, which she said would be “difficult, but I think being open to listening to all of that, and being in all the places, where you can actually hear from people, even if they don’t share your view is really important.”
Last month, Anchorage became the first city in Alaska to ban conversion therapy, a widely debunked practice that seeks to change a person’s sexuality or gender identity.
A bill preventing licensed professionals from attempting conversion therapy on minors in the city passed with only two of the Assembly’s 11 members opposing.
It was sponsored by openly gay Assembly member Felix Rivera, the former chair of the Assembly who was replaced by Quinn-Davidson.
“One day, this practice will be banned throughout the United States,” Rivera said at the time. “And then one day, we are going to look back and we’re going to wonder why this was ever a debate, and why this practice was ever allowed.”
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