Anchorage Mayor Dave Bronson has made another polarizing choice to lead the city’s library system after the Assembly voted down his first pick.
Bronson announced Friday that he’d chosen Judy Norton Eledge, a former teacher and literacy advocate who’s also a conservative activist.
Eledge narrowly lost an Anchorage School Board race earlier this year, during which she drew attention for posts from a Facebook account under her name that linked gay and transgender people to pedophilia, pictured Eledge and her husband aboard an airplane during the pandemic without masks and complained about Alaska bush communities “getting everything and having no tax and almost everything paid for them.”
Eledge, longtime president of the Anchorage Republican Women’s Club, later acknowledged writing some of the posts, but claimed others were altered as part of a smear campaign.
Bronson, in a prepared statement on Friday, acknowledged some Assembly members “will balk at Judy’s nomination.”
Downtown Assembly member Christopher Constant described the nomination as a “sad day for the city of Anchorage.”
“Basically it’s clear that the mayor’s only interest here is stoking political fires, not doing what’s best for the people of Anchorage,” Constant said.
Midtown Assembly member Felix Rivera was also skeptical.
“Let’s just say she has a little bit of a colored past of making interesting remarks,” he said. “So it makes me question whether Mrs. Eledge was chosen for this position for her political history or her professional history.”
Bronson pointed to Eledge’s experience as the reason behind his pick, which his office described as nearly 50 years in education, including teaching in rural and urban school districts. Eledge also served on the state Board of Education, the city’s Health and Social Services Commission and the Alaska State Commission on Juvenile Justice, Bronson’s office said in a statement. She doesn’t have any direct experience leading a library or a master’s in library science, which is a minimum qualification for the job, according to her resume provided by the Bronson administration.
The Assembly must confirm Bronson’s library director within six months of her appointment. Earlier this week, it rejected Bronson’s previous choice of Sami Graham, a former principal, who members said did not have the specific experience or qualifications for the library director job. After Graham’s rejection, Bronson announced she would serve as his new chief of staff, and spend part of her time working from the library.
Several Assembly members questioned how Eledge’s appointment would lead to a different outcome than Graham’s, which was denied in a 7-4 vote.
“After all of the feedback we got from the community surrounding qualifications and wanting to ensure that we had a qualified library director, I was pretty surprised to see someone that, to my knowledge so far, doesn’t have any of those qualifications,” said West Anchorage Assembly member Austin Quinn-Davidson.