Bronson appoints two critics of pandemic restrictions to Anchorage’s public health advisory committee

Mayor Dave Bronson has appointed two fervent critics of Anchorage’s pandemic public health mandates to the city’s public health advisory board. 

Anesthesiologist Shawn Degler and retired physician assistant Jim Wojciehowski still face a confirmation vote by the Anchorage Assembly before they fill the vacant seats on Anchorage’s Health and Human Services Commission.

A white man in a patterned wool sweater speaks into a microphone at a podium
James Wojciehowski testifying at a December, 2020 Assembly meeting. (Screenshot from Anchorage Assembly)

The nine-member board meets six times a year to make public health recommendations to the Assembly and mayor. Board members aren’t paid, and they serve three-year terms.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, Wojciehowski has been a vocal presence at Assembly meetings.  In online comments, he called individual Assembly members radicals, narcissists and sycophants and asserted that Anchorage’s public health mandates were killing people at a 65% greater rate than in the Mat-Su Borough, which did not enact restrictions. Anchorage and the Mat-Su now have similar mortality rates. Wojciehowski described Assembly members’ concern over COVID-19 as “panic porn” in an article published on a conservative blog. He’s listed as a director of Bronson’s inaugural committee in state records. 

Bronson’s second nominee, Dr. Shawn Degler, is an anesthesiologist at Alaska Regional Hospital who has also spoken against mask mandates at Assembly meetings. At a June 2020 Assembly meeting, he called mask requirements and lockdowns “unconstitutional overreach.”

A white man in a purple shirt speaks at a podium
Dr. Shawn Degler at an Assembly meeting in June, 2020 (Screenshot from Anchorage Assembly)

Degler has worked as an anesthesiologist in several states since 2006 and has been in Alaska since 2019, according to his resume. 

Assembly Vice Chair Chris Constant said that comments opposing well accepted medical advice — namely that masks work to prevent the spread of COVID-19 — is concerning. 

“I think members are going to look very closely at somebody who’s giving advice to the body that just doesn’t really comport with what the professionals are telling us,” he said. 

The Assembly will vote on Tuesday whether to confirm Degler and Wojciehowski.  An Assembly member has already pulled Wojciehowski’s name for a separate vote, while Degler’s appointment will be confirmed along with other procedural items, unless an Assembly member asks for a separate vote.  

Two other Bronson nominees will be questioned before the Assembly Friday at City Hall. Sami Graham was appointed to lead the city’s libraries and Rachelle Alger was appointed to lead the city’s purchasing department. The Assembly will then vote on their positions on Tuesday. 

Dave Morgan, who briefly served as the city’s health director, resigned earlier this month after Assembly members questioned his previous social media comments and work experience. The Assembly has unanimously approved Bronson’s other 11 appointments. 

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