The Anchorage Assembly on Friday selected Joey Sweet to fill the vacancy left by former member Forrest Dunbar.
Dunbar had represented East Anchorage since 2016, but is now headed to serve in the state Senate.
Across three rounds of voting, Assembly members decided among themselves between five candidates to fill Dunbar’s seat for the next three months, with the winner needing 7 of 10 votes. Sweet said he saw his chances as slim considering another candidate, Harry Crawford, had a decade of experience in the Legislature.
“I was really overwhelmed,” Sweet said. “I’m not going to embellish and say this was expected at all. This wasn’t even hardly on my radar.”
Sweet, 30, is a former student regent for the University of Alaska, appointed by then-Gov. Bill Walker. He also served as a legislative intern for former state Sen. Berta Gardner, a Democrat, and currently works at Angelus Memorial Park Cemetery as an office administrator.
Sweet has also worked with a local activist group called RESULTS aimed at fighting poverty. He said homelessness is among the top issues he’d like to address as an Assembly member, as well as another rarely discussed item in Anchorage politics: the use of facial recognition technology, particularly by law enforcement.
“I don’t think the technology works,” Sweet said. “I think it is discriminatory in how it is used, and I want to protect civil rights and civil liberties.”
Sweet will represent East Anchorage until the April municipal election, when voters will choose a candidate to serve the remaining two years of Dunbar’s term. Sweet said he intends to treat his time on the Assembly as a full-time job, but he has no intention of running in the April election.
“I’m here for about 100 days,” Sweet said. “I’m going to try to accomplish what I can within that timeframe.”
As the youngest member on the Assembly, Sweet said he also hopes to better represent the voices of younger Anchorage residents.
Assembly members will hold a similar meeting on Jan. 19 to fill an upcoming vacancy from Assembly member Jamie Allard of Eagle River, who was also elected to the Legislature, and will serve in the state House. The filing period for Chugiak-Eagle River residents looking to fill her seat will be from Jan. 10 to Jan. 17.
The filing period to be on the April municipal ballot will be from Jan. 13 to Jan. 27.