Home Politics Assembly Beat: Anchorage Assembly Beat: So Long, Fare Well, and New Leadership

Assembly Beat: So Long, Fare Well, and New Leadership


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Assembly Chair Ernie Hall opened Tuesday’s meeting with appropriate and respectful thanks for a well-executed and well-attended election.

I want to begin by thanking everyone in this community. All of the election workers who just did a phenomenal job this year. I think it was about as close to flawless as we can get to an election, and that’s due to those people putting in one really long day. And, of course, our own staff, that spent a very long… day and long evening. A number of those in sequence here to bring us to where we are this evening to be able to do a certification of the election. And particularly to our Election Commission. You ladies and gentlemen are just absolutely awesome.

The healthy crowd, filling much of chambers in the Loussac Library, interrupted in agreement and applause.


It’s so hard to say goodbye to yesterday.

Hall’s next point-of-privilege nod went to his colleagues. “What an honor it’s been to serve as your chair,” he told the body, knowing full well he would not leave with that title intact. “Mr. Trombley, I’m going to miss you immensely. It’s been a delight working with you; it’s been a delight having you as my vice chair. And I have no doubt that we have not seen the last of Mr. Adam Trombley.”

As has become customary, each member paid final farewells to their departing peers. Nothing has matched the Epic Puppet Show of 2010, when then-Assemblywoman Harriet Drummond bid adieu to outgoing member (and now-candidate for mayor) Dan Coffey via a singing puppet shark. And tonight bore no such challenge. But it was still, to close followers of assembly politics, a big deal handled respectfully.

Hall proceeded from Trombley to Chris Birch, the other departing Assemblyman, who termed out. He joked: “I don’t know that you’ve been in that seat for nine years, but you’ve been sitting there for quite a while. Maybe I’ll be lucky enough to get that one. It’s close to the restroom.”

“It’s a good seat,” Birch quipped in response.

Birch congratulated Bill Evans, his successor, on his election to the body. Birch had endorsed and campaigned for Evans during his run against Pete Nolan and Bruce Dougherty. “I know he’ll do a great job for our city, and I appreciate the energy and experience he brings to the table as our newest South Anchorage Assembly representative.”

Birch defended his record on AO37, last year’s controversial labor law (which he supported and played a key role in delaying a citizen’s referendum vote on until November) and said he was confident it would solidify the city’s credit rating.

Demboski credited Birch as a mentor of sorts, and thanked Trombley for his service. “I think working with you for the last year has made me a better assembly person.”

“I look forward to the incoming energy,” Bill Starr said after thanking voters for securing his reelection in Eagle River. “The new members that fought hard for their election and their principles of government, and equally to those that are departing. Let’s keep doing good work for our community.”

Lone Downtown representative, Patrick Flynn, knowing what was coming, thanked Hall for his leadership as chair of the assembly for the last two years, “in what can be an uncomfortable seat at some times.”

Then, Flynn drew his attention toward the departing East Anchorage member. “To my unlikely friend, Mr. Trombley, I suspect when you started your service on this body you didn’t list me high on your [list of] potential partners on projects,” he conceded. “And, you know, to be fair, I probably had a similar estimation on you. But we’ve managed to forge a relationship; a friendship. I think we’ve done some good things together. I appreciate that.”

“It’s been an honor to serve,” Trombley responded. “You know, when I ran three years ago I said I’d never make a decision based on reelection, and I can say three years later that I never did. I did everything at the time I thought was right, and I don’t regret those decisions or those votes. And, since I have a hot chocolate date with my three-and-a-half year old, I’ll leave my comments there.”

Forfeiting an assembly seat, by election or choice, to fulfill a hot chocolate date request from your three and a half year old daughter — I can say from some experience working for the assembly — is uniformly accepted as a promotion.

Trombley suffers from a district where there is no immediate higher office to run for as a Republican, and he’d be hard pressed to run as anything else. But, rest assured, he’ll be ready when a vacancy presents itself.

“Adam, I appreciate your service in this body,” Dick Traini added. “A long time ago, I was where you are now, okay? I ran this first term a long time ago. I ran for reelection and did not win that. So, believe me, Adam, you can retool and come back again, if that’s what you decide to do, and your family.”

Remember those words, and those who echoed them.

asssembly beat - swearing in-cover



After every municipal election, the assembly retains the right to reorganize the assembly, to reflect new membership. This election saw a sea change — albeit a slight one — taking a leftward turn. Birch’s absence was filled by his handpicked conservative choice in Bill Evans. However, the six-figure East Anchorage race, which ousted Adam Trombley and replaced him with former Democratic State Representative Pete Petersen, tilted the liberal/conservative balance (in itself a misnomer).

Many have projected the shift to equate to a liberal 6-5 balance.

I think that’s shortsighted and oversimplified, but there definitely has been a shift away from the majority that has generally supported Mayor Sullivan.

Either way, a reorganization was in the pipes, and the new chair was all but solidified by the morning after election night: Patrick Flynn.

“I’d like to thank each of you for your confidence in me. We’ve got a lot of work to do,” Flynn said after a round of applause.

I was Flynn’s staffer for most of his last term. So, I apologize if future assembly coverage comes rife with disclosure notices eclipsing Demboskian levels.

With that said, the big question was who would become the new vice chair. Flynn has been a mediator and go-between; the rare person who straddles the middle and tries to broker deals that somehow begin to satisfy all sides of all aisles, which are a lot more complicated with hyper-personal assembly politics.

When it came down to selecting a vice chair, would he vote to side with the conservative bloc, or the center-left contingent?

The eleven member body was given two nominations to serve the second chair: Jennifer Johnston (nominated by Bill Starr), of the center-right, and Dick Traini (nominated by Elvi Gray-Jackson), representing the center-left. Eleven members, five voting one way and five voting another.

There was tension pouring from the Assembly chambers through my monitor during the nearly two minutes in which the body cast anonymous votes. Finally, Municipal Clerk Barbara Jones read the results: “Yes, Mr. Chair, Mr. Traini is the vice chair.”

Wild ride ahead.