On The Way Out, Mayor Sullivan Gathers Souvenirs

Wednesday marked the end of Dan Sullivan’s six years as mayor of Anchorage. Packing up his office in City Hall, he spoke about what he’ll keep, and what will end up in the recycling bin of history.

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Sullivan often calls himself the “CEO of the City,” and has an equally candid, business-like approach to administrative transition.

“There’s nothing magic about it,” he said, standing near an empty desk outside his office.

Incoming mayor Ethan Berkowitz has handled his transition from a different building, and while the change-over has been smooth, it is not particularly intimate. Though some Berkowitz staffers were present in the Administration’s 8th floor suite, Sullivan said it was a development that began just a day or two before.

Berkowitz ran a campaign for mayor that was in many ways a reaction against the Sullivan’s record, picking up support from liberal and union constituencies that disliked many of the administration’s policies.

Even the inauguration festivities bear different tones: Berkowitz has a high school folk-rock band opening his ceremony Wednesday in a public park, followed by hip-hop and Alaska Native dancers.

Sullivan’s 2009 inauguration in the Performing Arts Center was more a button-down affair with past mayors in attendance, and the singing of State Flag song and National Anthem. “A bit more formal,” Sullivan said. “Second term we didn’t do much of an inauguration at all, just got sworn in and that was that.”

When an administration changes there is a large cache of material to be sorted: reports, old budgets, studies. The important documents are housed with the City Manager’s office, and the bulk of electronic files are archived for the public record.

But then there are the artifacts falling somewhere between professional and personal: plaques, photos, speeches, even old files on topics of special interest that may be pertinent down the line (Sullivan mentioned a folio on a sales tax).

“You don’t want to just throw it away,” Sullivan started, “but then you almost convince yourself that it exists somewhere else in the city. So when I get home I’ll probably do ‘Winnowing Part Two’ and get rid of about half of what I just took home.”

Then there’s all the paper and clutter that just doesn’t make the cut. “We just put ’em in the X-File,” Sullivan said, “It’s a big recyclable blue-bin that recycles all the paper.”

Sullivan held political positions in Anchorage for a decade-and-half, starting with three terms on the Assembly. He is not sure what he’ll do next. Even his summer plans are intentionally unstructured beyond a visit to his daughter in Oregon. But he knows his next job will be outside of government.

“I’ve been an elected official for 15 years, it’s time to do something different,” Sullivan said.

Mayor Ethan Berkowitz takes office Wednesday.