After an hour of debate, the Anchorage Assembly voted down Sami Graham as the city librarian. But then, Mayor Dave Bronson asked for a point of privilege and announced Graham as his new chief of staff.
After the applause from the audience at the Assembly died down, Bronson announced that Graham’s office will be located at the Loussac Library.
The look on Assembly Chair Suzanne LaFrance’s face was priceless. Her face went into a look of shock.
The audience would not settle down. The applause and cheering continued. LaFrance cut the mic so the applause could not be heard by those online or on TV. She had lost control of the meeting.
The drama came after the Bronson Administration made a valiant effort to get the liberal wing of the Anchorage Assembly to change its mind and accept Graham’s impressive qualifications.
City Manager Amy Demboski pointed out that she had never been a city manager, but they confirmed her. She pointed out all the people who had been confirmed for positions they had never held before, such as Human Resources Director Niki Tshibaka, who is a civil rights lawyer.
But the Assembly had made up its mind a week earlier and would not yield: Graham may have two master’s degrees but neither are in library science, which they think is a requirement for the job.
LaFrance quickly ordered the Assembly into its dinner break.
Graham replaces Craig Campbell as chief of staff. Campbell came out of retirement to help Bronson during his transition and was co-chair of his transition team.
The denial of Sami Graham as library director was seen as largely political.
She is the former principal of Grace Christian School. She will also have an office on the eighth floor, next to the mayor, but she will also be overseeing the library, which is her passion, sources said.
Campbell will be the program and policy director for the mayor’s office.
“Sami Graham will join the Mayor’s team as Chief of Staff where she will manage the day to day administrative operations of the Mayor’s office. In her capacity as Chief of Staff, Mayor Bronson has also delegated his authority to oversee the Anchorage Public Library to Mrs. Graham. Mrs. Graham will hold physical offices in both the Mayor’s Office and the ZJ Loussac Library,” the mayor said in a statement.
“Sadly, the Assembly acted exactly how we thought they would — blinded by partisanship and driven to obstruct our administration from moving forward,” Bronson said. “Sami Graham was exceptionally qualified to serve as the Library Director and she should have been confirmed this evening. However, over these many weeks, I’ve grown increasingly impressed with Sami Graham’s political insight, organizational leadership and ability to navigate complex challenges. For many of the same reasons Sami was qualified to run the Library and more, she will be a great addition to help lead Mayor’s office operations.”