He asked the right questions – and gave the right answers
Mike Robbins is the right choice, at the right time, for Anchorage Mayor
By Tom Anderson Sr.
March 23, 2021
I first came to Alaska in the late 1950s in the U.S. Army after getting recruited in Minnesota where my family farmed. Post-military, after a few years on the Seattle Fire Department I was recruited to join the Alaska State Police (which would become the State Troopers) within which I retired as the Colonel and DPS Director after 22 years. After the Troopers, I served as the General Manager for Ogden Allied for 17 years. Ogden held the management contracts for Anchorage’s Sullivan Arena and Egan Convention Center, among other facilities statewide, and during which time we operated in the black and with robust concerts, trade shows, and sporting events including the ACES and UAA Division I Hockey.
I’ve overviewed my employment experience because I believe the next mayor of Anchorage needs to understand the dynamics of many of the municipal operations and management I was involved with, and also be cognizant of the importance public safety, fire protection services and our military base connectivity has on the direction into the future. These layers of bureaucracy will be relevant in the next steps for city planning and success.
When Mike Robbins decided to file as a candidate for the mayor’s job in Anchorage, he reached out to me. The first question he asked revolved around municipal facilities. He wanted to learn the history of Sullivan and Egan operations and why they successfully thrived in tandem with tourism. I offered my insight and he listened. He also asked the right questions and even offered some goals through a private-public partnership. His insight on the Sullivan Arena as a homeless shelter, local and national statistics on indigency and panhandling, and future alternatives including Alaska Native regional corporation collaboration is intriguing.
Mike asked about the nexus of city and state law enforcement and how that relationship can be cultivated. He dug into my experiences with tourism planning and JBER relations, both of which are inextricably linked to the community. I served on the Anchorage Convention & Visitors Bureau Board of Directors and also as the Ombudsman for the DOD Employers Support of the Guard & Reserve Program so tried to offer insight where appropriate. He was a sponge and a quick learner of what he didn’t know. Where he shared insight from his work experience, it was applicable and thoughtful.
At one point in a conversation Mike reflected on his youth in the Spenard neighborhood back when I was the colonel and we still assigned Troopers to patrol routes in Anchorage. He presented a genuine interest in making a discernible difference as mayor, particularly with innovation within fire and public safety services, public facility management, tourism and hospitality, and even military communications. Mike also conveyed an affinity to farming and community-urban garden alternatives that connect neighborhoods, farmer’s markets, and sustainable agriculture models.
I was especially encouraged when Mike brought up East Anchorage, where my late wife and I raised our boys who attended Muldoon Elementary, Clark Junior High (now a Middle School) and Bartlett High School. Mike’s knowledge of the Anchorage School District and areawide neighborhoods is encouraging. He really has a bearing on municipal-wide demographics. I believe engaged parents can feel the pulse of community sentiment more than most people. As mayor, these attributes will resonate with the electorate, many of whom are parents, too.
From the folks at CHARR in the restaurant and bar industry like my friend Frank Dahl, to the Home Builders Association and community leaders like Rich Carr, to John and Sandy Powers who are dedicated charitable gaming operators, to faith-based members across the city, Mike is making the rounds to listen – and learn, and secure support from respected advocates. The fact he met with the Fraternal Order of Alaska State Troopers executive director, Eugene Harnett, to contemplate ways to support and build the organization and promote the Law Enforcement Museum is pleasing to me as I’ve served on the FOAST Board for decades and recognize that continued MOA administrative support is critical. Mike appears to be listening, gathering insight, applying his own experience and ideas, and forging a constructive plan for Anchorage.
To the voters still undecided
To the voters still undecided, I recommend you choose a mayoral candidate who is a fiscal conservative while also compassionate to the causes of social issues facing Anchorage. Housing insecurity and addictions may be going hand-in-hand, which then transitions to our homeless numbers and elevated crime. Mike is showing a determination to learn about these problems, craft solutions in a team-effort approach, and deliver results. Having a plan to get the city back on track and past the pandemic is necessary – and without polarizing rhetoric. Being supportive of our police and fire personnel and military members and veterans, as Mike commits, is also an expectation by many of us while the national spotlight illuminates disregard in other cities.
Mike Robbins, based on my conversations with him, fits this direction and mentality. He has the heart and intellect to lead, humility and wherewithal to listen, and the organizational skills to manage a bureaucracy the size of the Municipality effectively. That’s a great start for a new mayor.
I think he can pull the city out of its hole and lead responsibly, and inclusively, into brighter days.
And he listens more than lectures. We need more of that from our leadership.
Tom Anderson is an Army veteran, former Seattle Fireman, retired Alaska State Trooper Colonel and Ogden Allied Facility Management Alaska General Manager.