An irate news anchor and abrupt resignation usher in a new mayor of Anchorage

Anchorage Assembly member, Austin Quinn-Davidson, has become the first woman and openly gay acting mayor of Anchorage after the abrupt resignation of the current mayor, Ethan Berkowitz.

Anchorage’s new mayor comes during a pandemic and a former mayor’s abrupt resignation. Photo by Christina Swayney.

Quinn-Davidson was voted in on Oct. 16. She will start serving on Oct. 23, when Berkowitz’s resignation goes into full effect. Quinn-Davidson joined the assembly in 2018 and has lived in Alaska since 2011, coming from a small logging community in Northern California. Although she is breaking a glass ceiling in the Anchorage political arena during a contentious time, she says focus should be on the community and the challenges we face right now in an Alaska News Source article from Oct. 19.

“To me, this is less about whether I’m a woman or whether I have a wife or a husband and more about solving the problems in Anchorage,” Davidson said.

Berkowitz’s resignation comes after unsubstantiated allegations were made against him on social media by Maria Athens, a local news anchor for KTBY and KTUR. Athens claimed that Berkowitz had inappropriate contact and communications with underage girls using an unnamed website.

Athens promised an exclusive story set to air on her news networks, but it was not approved by either station. Berkowitz responded to the allegations and called them “slanderous” and “false” in an official press release on Oct. 9, as reported by Alaska Public Media. Athens then posted a nude photo of a man’s backside that she claims is Berkowitz.

Before Athens released her social media post, she left a voice message for Berkowitz and his wife, threatening to kill them, expose Berkowitz for the allegations made and used anti-Semetic verbiage, according to the mayor’s office.

The Anchorage Police worked with the FBI to investigate the allegations made by Athens and have found no criminal activity in connection with Berkowitz. He has also admitted to a “consensual, inappropriate messaging relationship,” in an official statement posted to the Municipality of Anchorage.

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“It is with profound sadness and humility that I resign as Mayor of the Municipality of Anchorage. My resignation results from unacceptable personal conduct that has compromised my ability to perform my duties with the focus and trust that is required,” Berkowitz said in his resignation statement.

Athens was later arrested for fourth-degree criminal assault, criminal mischief and disorderly conduct on the same day that she posted the allegations on social media. The arrest was made due to an altercation with her station manager, Scott Centers. Athens tried to air the story about the allegations at her news station, KYUR, but was denied by Centers, resulting in Athens becoming violent. She has since been banned from the news station by the court during her arraignment on Oct. 10 and is currently out on bail.

Quinn-Davidson will assume her position until a new mayor is elected during the regular electoral process in April of 2021. She plans to make public health and the economy her top priorities and get to work on them immediately.

“I think the most important role of a mayor right now is to inspire trust in government and to make people feel at ease during a time that is pretty tumultuous,” she said. “I think revitalizing the economy and ensuring that small businesses can survive, and that people can get back to work is key. Of course, that interlays with public health and safety, and those two are so aligned, we need to work together on both,” Davidson said in an interview with ADN.