Ethan Berkowitz formally became the new Mayor of Anchorage on Wednesday. The celebration downtown was a marked departure from past inaugurations, with a heavy emphasis on changing directions at City Hall.
The whole afternoon was an informal affair, feeling at times closer to a block party than a government event. Supporters, local politicians, curious passersby – Town Square Park filled with hundreds of people while the Vinyl Floors, a folk-rock band from West High School, played on stage.
The ceremony itself was short and sweet. It was also diverse, something speakers as well as audience members noted. The event opened with a Dena’ina prayer, and eventually yielded to performances by the Alaska Native Heritage Center dancers and Underground Dance Company, a Hip-hop troup.
Rhetoric throughout drew on language from community activism emphasizing Anchorage’s multiculturalism, as well as subtle nods towards progressive values. It’s the same tone Berkowitz used on the campaign trail, and throughout his transition into office the last two months.
“We are, in many ways, liberated from the way things have been done before,” Berkowitz said said during his speech. “We have the responsibility, and the ability, to take care of things ourselves. It’s our time to make a new Anchorage.”
The mayor’s office in Anchorage is technically nonpartisan. And while there were no overt jabs at the conservative outgoing Sullivan Administration, there was a decidedly liberal flavor to the festivities, with Downtown Democratic legislators smiling beside prominent community activists.
As the ceremony was winding down, attendee David Landry said the event’s openness set a tone unlike any past inaugurations. “Just very excited to have a new generation of mayor in town,” Landry said. “And it’s about time.”
As for specifics in Berkowitz’s policy agenda, details are scant, but the focus remains on issues highlighted in his campaign.
“(We’ve been) working on public safety issues, we’ve been working on economic development issues. And we’re also getting the early stages of preparing the next budget,” Berkowitz said during an in interview. “We’ve been hard at work–even before we moved into the office.”
The remainder of the afternoon was for celebration, music, and a very long line for free cupcakes.