Anchorage Mayor Dave Bronson announced an abrupt change in leadership Monday morning. He replaced Municipal Manager Amy Demboski, effective immediately.
Public Works Director Kent Kohlhase is now the acting municipal manager, said Bronson’s two-sentence statement.
It’s unclear how or why Demboski is departing. Bronson’s statement did not provide any additional details about Demboski’s departure. A spokesman for the mayor said it’s a personnel matter, and he had no further comment. Demboski could not be reached.
Bronson announced Demboski as his municipal manager as he took office in summer 2021. She was responsible for oversight of a huge swath of municipal operations, including the police and fire departments, public works, street maintenance and the sewer and water utility.
Assembly members said in interviews Monday that they were surprised by Bronson’s announcement, and had few insights.
“I’m as intrigued as anybody, what brought this on,” said Assembly member Kevin Cross.
Assembly Vice Chair Chris Constant said, “Right now, there’s a lot more questions than answers.”
Both Assembly members said Demboski was competent. She formerly served on the Anchorage Assembly, representing Eagle River and Chugiak. She ran for mayor in 2015, and lost to Bronson’s predecessor, Ethan Berkowitz. She went on to work for Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s administration in 2018.
Kohlhase started working at the municipality in 2013. He was new to leading the city’s Public Works Department. Bronson just appointed him last month. Kohlhase has previously served as the director of the Project Management and Engineering Department.
Constant said he has confidence in Kohlhase. Kohlhase’s confirmation as public works director was the subject of an Assembly meeting this past Friday, and the Assembly was scheduled to vote on his confirmation on Tuesday. Now, the director job is vacant again, said Constant.
“It feels a bit like we’re rearranging the deck chairs,” he said.
Cross said the municipal manager job is a difficult position to fill.
“I’ll be honest with you, it’s not a job I’d ever want,” Cross said. “I mean, you’re signing up for it, and then when things don’t go right, you know, you’ve got to deal with the brunt of the Assembly. You know, so it’s a thankless job.”
Cross said he was disappointed about Demboski’s departure. He said she was easy to work with and very helpful. He also expressed confidence in Kohlhase.