Anchorage mayor names Sami Graham new chief of staff

The Anchorage Assembly meets Tuesday, Aug. 24, 2021 in Anchorage, Alaska.
The Anchorage Assembly meets Tuesday, Aug. 24, 2021 in Anchorage, Alaska.(Jeremy Kashatok/Alaska's News Source)
Published: Aug. 24, 2021 at 9:04 PM AKDT|Updated: Aug. 24, 2021 at 10:28 PM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - Anchorage Mayor Dave Bronson, during Tuesday’s night’s meeting of the Anchorage Assembly, named Sami Graham as his new chief of staff after she failed to get enough votes to be confirmed by the assembly as his appointee to serve as library director for the city.

Graham, who was an unsuccessful candidate for Seat E on the Anchorage School Board in the most recent municipal election, was Bronson’s pick to direct Anchorage’s library system. She was up for a final confirmation hearing and vote by the assembly during their meeting Tuesday night.

She has two master’s degrees — one in educational leadership and one in science in counseling. Her main experience has been as an educator and more recently as principal of Trailside Elementary School in Anchorage and Grace Christian School.

The main opposition to Graham among some of the assembly members was that her experience does not meet the minimum qualifications set out for the library director position, which include a degree in library science.

“The charter states that these positions are to be confirmed by the assembly on the basis of professional qualifications,” said Assembly Chair Suzanne LaFrance.

Niki Tshibaka, director of human resources for the city, said that he recently learned his predecessor implemented a change in the city hiring process that, going forward, the city would look at not only minimum requirements but also equivalent qualifications, such as certificates and work experience.

“And the whole purpose was to ensure we brought in more of a diversity of people from different professional background and ethnicities,” he said.

In her comments before the vote, LaFrance said she didn’t believe “that the administration has shown that the candidate possesses alternative equivalent qualifications.”

Ultimately, Graham’s confirmation as library director failed in a 4-7 vote. The four yes votes came from assembly members Jamie Allard, John Weddleton and Crystal Kennedy and Vice Chair Christopher Constant.

Immediately following the vote, Bronson announced that he was appointing Graham as his new chief of staff, to applause from the audience at the meeting.

“In respect to the assembly, I thought it would be a good time to introduce my new chief of staff, Sami Graham,” Bronson said.

His chief of staff up to this point as been Craig Campbell.

Bronson spoke again to tell the assembly that if they wanted to find Graham’s office, it would be “in the library.” Constant welcomed Graham as the new chief of staff.

In a press release sent Tuesday night, the mayor’s office said Campbell will step down as chief of staff and service as director of policy and programs.

As chief of staff, Graham will manage day-to-day administrative operations of the mayor’s office, the press release states.

In the release, Bronson wrote that the assembly was “blinded by partisanship and driven to obstruct our administration from moving forward.”

“However, over these many weeks, I’ve grown increasingly impressed with Sami Graham’s political insight, organizational leadership and ability to navigate complex challenges,” he wrote. “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.”

According to the release, Graham will have offices in both the mayor’s office and the Z. J. Loussac Library.

Editor’s note: This article has been updated with additional information.

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