Suzanne LaFrance prepares to take over as Anchorage mayor

a woman smiles in front of a mural
Anchorage mayor-elect Suzanne LaFrance stands in front of City Hall after her election victory was certified by the Anchorage Assembly on May 31, 2024. (Wesley Early/Alaska Public Media)

The Anchorage Assembly on Friday formally certified Suzanne LaFrance’s victory over incumbent Dave Bronson in the 2024 mayoral runoff election.

With her win now official, LaFrance said she’s got a lot of preparing to do before she’s sworn in as mayor on July 1. 

“It’s still sinking in,” she said. “I mean, we’ve been focused on getting started on the work with the transition. And so yeah, it’s been exciting already.”

LaFrance recently launched, where her staff will soon begin posting information on joining her transition team.

LaFrance, a registered nonpartisan, will be the first woman elected to lead Alaska’s largest city. She’s no stranger to city government, having represented South Anchorage on the Assembly for six years, including two years as chair. During her time as chair, she often sided with the body’s moderate to left-leaning majority in conflicts with Bronson, a staunch conservative.

During his campaign for reelection, Bronson claimed that LaFrance would be a rubber stamp for the Assembly majority, and vice versa. LaFrance disagrees and said there’s always going to be conflict between the Assembly and mayor’s office. 

“What’s most important is that we’re focused on what’s best for Anchorage and working together,” LaFrance said. “And I look forward to productive, respectful disagreements, so that we do have a better outcome for everyone who lives here.”

West Anchorage Assembly member Anna Brawley supported LaFrance’s campaign and said she’s looking forward to a more collaborative relationship with the mayor’s office. Bronson’s term as mayor was fraught with disagreements with the Assembly over which department had authority over certain issues, like budgeting and transparency

“There’s so many times that we’ve had to step in and basically do part of the job of running the city, you know, beyond I think what this job entails,” Brawley said. “So, I’m really excited about being able to focus on policy and then working with incoming Mayor LaFrance and her key staff to get things done.”

Conservative South Anchorage Assembly member Randy Sulte said he doesn’t think LaFrance will necessarily always be in agreement with the Assembly. He congratulated his fellow South Anchorage resident on her victory, and said he’s hopeful that she’ll continue the momentum the city has made on a number of issues, primarily homelessness. 

“I think we do need a year-round shelter,” Sulte said. “I think we do need to hold people accountable for crimes they commit. You know, being homeless is one thing. Littering, stealing, intoxication is another.”

LaFrance agreed that addressing homelessness will be a major issue as she takes office. She’s in favor of the shelter model the Assembly has followed in recent years, opting for multiple smaller buildings.

“Certainly dispersed shelter sites, I think as far as best practice goes,” LaFrance said. “I’m not in favor of any kind of mega shelter located in one part of the community.”

As summer begins, many smaller shelters are shuttering, leading hundreds of homeless residents to begin camping outdoors. The Assembly recently passed new regulations around homeless camping, prohibiting campsites near shelters and limiting their size to 25 tents. LaFrance said she’s more focused on finding shelter than clearing campsites right now.

“I mean, that’s what we need to do here is make sure that folks have a place to go,” LaFrance said. “And so that’ll be a top priority, building that strong team, and ensuring that we have that plan in place.”

LaFrance also committed to reviving Anchorage’s climate action plan, which was mostly dormant under Bronson.

“Heck yeah! I’m so looking forward to dusting that plan off the shelf,” she said. “It may need to be updated, but there are so many ideas contained in that plan and actionable steps that we can take that not only improve our resiliency but also have the potential to reduce costs.”

The city’s climate action plan was originally adopted in 2019 under Mayor Ethan Berkowitz, with input from hundreds of Anchorage residents. It identified key climate threats, like increased risk of urban wildfires and extreme precipitation. It also set a goal for the city to reduce carbon emissions by 80% by 2050.

Under the Bronson administration, the city failed to release annual progress reports for 2022 and 2023, though a spokesperson said in December that the plan is still city policy.

Heavy snowfall is one of the most direct ways Anchorage has experienced climate change in recent years. LaFrance said planning to have enough snowplow operators and equipment is “top of mind.”

The plan is due for a five-year update this year. Asked if she plans to complete it when she takes office in July, LaFrance said, “Absolutely.”

LaFrance said other top priorities include fully staffing municipal jobs and providing better public safety on city trails and streets. 

Another looming issue has to do with police accountability. Anchorage recently had its first fatal police shooting since officers were outfitted with body cameras. The victim’s family is calling on the police department to release the footage, but Chief-designee Bianca Cross has maintained that won’t happen until an internal and state investigation is complete. 

LaFrance said she wants to be briefed fully on the situation before she wades in on whether the footage should be released. 

“I want to express condolences for the loss of that individual,” LaFrance said. “And then also to, you know, be very clear about my commitment to working with the community and APD for full transparency and accountability as to the facts of the situation and what happened.”

LaFrance takes the reins of the city as officials are caught in another debate over what to do with the Eklutna River and its hydroelectric dam. Officials with the city and the utilities that rely on the dam for power and water have been working on plans to mitigate some of the damage to the Eklutna River from the dam, though not everyone agrees on what should be done

Bronson sided with the utilities on a partial removal plan they say would minimally impact ratepayers. 

However, LaFrance supports the Assembly and the Native Village of Eklutna, who want to fully remove the dam. Though the city’s plan for the project has already been pitched to the governor, LaFrance is hopeful it can still be amended. 

“I do support the tribe, and their vision for full restoration, and that’s my vision too,” LaFrance said. “And I believe that that’s something we can still get to.”

After the election results were certified, the Assembly issued likely their last override of a Bronson veto, reaffirming an effort to weigh in on the Eklutna Hydroelectric Project.

Alaska Public Media’s Kavitha George contributed to this report.

a portrait of a man outside

Wesley Early covers Anchorage life and city politics for Alaska Public Media. Reach him at and follow him on X at @wesley_early. Read more about Wesley here.

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