Heads roll in Berkowitz Administration - Must Read Alaska
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Thursday, October 21, 2021
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Heads roll in Berkowitz Administration

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The Berkowitz administration is in leadership chaos, after the resignations of at least five department heads in recent days, including the Director of Payroll, Transportation, Health and Human Services, Public Works, and Information Technology. The job of Municipal Property Assessor is also turning over and the fire chief just quit.

In Health and Human Services, three high-level people have been forced out, according to sources.

In Payroll, a division of Finance, Cindy Becker has left her position as Payroll director, and Renee Behrendt is acting in that role.

In Information Technology, Chief Information Officer Zal Parakh is “in transition and looking for a new position in Anchorage or Minneapolis. In May, I ended a few years of formal Public Service to the citizens of Anchorage as the Municipality of Anchorage CIO/IT Director.” He had been hired by Mayor Ethan Berkowitz in January of 2016.

In Parakh’s place is Sioux-z Humphrey Marshall, who is now listed as director of the division, which has been moved into the Mayor’s Office. She was the Innovation Team program manager previously for the Muni.

On June 12, Mayor Ethan Berkowitz announced two other changes: Jamie Acton is Director of the Public Transportation Department and Natasha Pineda is the new Director of the Department of Health and Human Service.

Acton has been with the Muni since 2005, first as a recreation programmer for Parks and Recreation and later as mobility planner for the Public Transportation Department, and she served as a senior transportation planner for the Anchorage Metropolitan Area Transportation Solutions, where she was responsible for transportation planning and is the lead for all public involvement efforts. She will become Director of the department on July 2.

The acting director of Transportation is Bart Rudolph. Abul Hassan had served as Transportation director since July, 2016. Before that, he was superintendent of operations at People Mover for the Muni.

Natasha Pineda, the new director of HHS, was the deputy health official with the Alaska Department for Administration. Prior to working for the State, Pineda worked for the Muni as the community and family services division manager at HHS. Pineda also served as a program officer for the Alaska Mental Health Trust Authority, as a program coordinator for the SOA’s Division of Behavioral Health. She will take over as Director of DHHS on July 9.

Pineda replaces Melinda Freemon, who has been in the health field for more than 25 years and who was the executive director of the Clitheroe Center Drug and Alcohol Treatment program and Supportive Housing Division Director for the Rural Alaska Community Action Program.

City Property Assessor Bryant Robbins is also gone, and his job is being advertised. The Fire Department has a new chief, Jodie Ettrick.

She replaced Denis LeBlanc, who retired last month after less than three years on the job.

“Employees are in shock,” said one source familiar with the dismissal of three from the Health and Human Services department.

Recently, a report revealed massive cost overruns relating to the Muni’s computer and Human Resources computations, which has led to possibly over a million in penalties for miscalculated pay and benefits.

[Read: Anchorage computer flaws cost millions]

Berkowitz was recently reelected to his second term in office and will be sworn in July 1.

(Check back: This story will be updated with information as it becomes available).

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Written by

Suzanne Downing had careers in business and journalism before serving as the Director of Faith and Community-based Initiatives for Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and returning to Alaska to serve as speechwriter for Gov. Sean Parnell. Born on the Oregon coast, she moved to Alaska in 1969.

Latest comments

  • Ethan was just re-elected. He can do anything he wants. Neither the Assembly or the media will question him and the Police will supply him with all the muscle he needs. He is Anchorage’s version of Putin in a Patagona pull-over.

  • Maybe they need a Innovation Stakeholder Change Manager.

  • It may be rats leaving a sinking ship, but sadly, we’re stuck with this garbage barge being around for possibly three more years. I thought Marky-Mark was bad for my wallet, but Mayor Spendowitz has become the poster boy of liberal mayors.

    I believe Spendowitz is going to make a run against Senator Dan in 2020. If he should win (shudder), then we get a rent-a-mayor like Matt Clamman was, and that was miserable. Does anyone else worry about a Mayor Dunbar?

  • You guys joke but these agency Directors were all that was standing between a corrupt Mayor and his inexperienced lackeys like William Falsey. These people either left or were let go because they refused to cave into POLITICS AS USUAL — where you scratch Ethan’s back and he has you covered when he runs for governor.

    This is just the tip of the iceberg. No doubt plenty of dirt is about to come out on Ethan and the lackeys he’s got on board.

    Y’all care about this? Talk to the assembly!

  • Must be time to bring in more brainless superlibs, now that Mayor Berkowitz is in a 2nd term

    Maybe they can make it legal to run over & kill people in crosswalks….oh wait, that’s already

  • We’d normally have a clue what is going on. But Berkowitz is the silent mayor. Never addresses the public, like Sullivan did regularly. Always the “nothing to report” mayor that hides in his office. And the ADN has always given him a pass card, no negative press. Well, this is what you get when only the people that work for government show up to vote. Anchorage has become a pathetic, diseased sh*thole.

    • Sullivan suspended the Chief of Police and didn’t even notify the Assembly about it. Yeah, he’s a real transparent guy all right.

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