Felix Rivera, Chair of the Anchorage Municipal Assembly
You are of Puerto Rican descent, but you don’t speak Spanish. You came to Alaska to study at Alaska Pacific University (APU) and graduated with a Bachelor of Liberal Studies degree. You soon showed your political vocation as president of the Student Society. Then worked as Constituent Relations Officer and Special Assistant in the Office of the now ex-Mayor, Ethan Berkowitz, and this experience has served you well as an Assembly Member and Assembly Chair later on.
You’re the second Latino elected to the Anchorage Assembly, after Mike Gutierrez (Assemblyman 2008-2011), and some news sources said that you would be the interim Mayor of Anchorage, although Austin Quinn-Davidson, was finally named interim Mayor. This made her the first woman to hold this position after more than a century of city history.
How well did you know Ethan Berkowitz? How did you experience the crisis that forced Berkowitz out of office?
I didn’t know Ethan before I worked for his 2015 campaign for Mayor – I just knew his name and had watched the now-famous video of him in the legislature calling out lobbyists on the floor of the Alaska State House.
I got to know Ethan a little bit, but truth be told, I developed a much more fond friendship with his wife, Mara Kimmel.
The scandal hit me hard at first – both on a personal level, and also on a professional level. I hope the best for Ethan, Mara, and the kids.
Why was it decided to make Austin Quinn-Davidson the interim Mayor of Anchorage, when it seemed that everyone was sure it was going to be you? What were the reasons for not being appointed mayor?
That decision was probably the most difficult one I’ve ever had to make. Let me be perfectly clear – I was not coerced or forced into this decision. Any insinuation is an insult to my intelligence. Austin and I had dozens of conversations over the course of that week and in the end, a decision was made that I felt was the best for Anchorage as a community and for the Anchorage Assembly.
Your public career seems to indicate that you set goals for yourself and work to achieve them. What is your next goal? Congressman? Mayor-elect of Anchorage? Some higher office of responsibility in the Biden Administration?
Right now, focus is super clear – I want to help make Anchorage a better place for all. For me, I try and do my best to keep ego out of my decisions to run for office. Any decision I make to run for higher office will be based on whether I am the best fit for the office or not. So yes, if it is in the best interest of the community for me to run for a higher office, I would be honored to do so.
How have you experienced the four years of Donald Trump’s administration and what do you expect from the next phase with Joe Biden and Kamala Harris?
The Trump administration has been a very trying experience. Every day some new horror was forced on people I love. At a minimum, I would hope that a Biden administration would stop some of the atrocities that came out of our current one. But I honestly don’t expect much more than that. I would love the Biden administration to blow away my expectations.
You have declared yourself openly gay and so has Austin Quinn-Davidson. One way or another, you two are making history, bringing an openly gay person and the first woman in the history of the city to the Mayor’s office, and you for being Chair of the Assembly while being gay, being the first Latino to do so and possibly the youngest, at 31.
Sorry, but I’m not seeing a question here. But I guess to comment:
Representation matters. Having diverse voices at the table ensures that all voices are considered and that all parts of our community can benefit from the work we do.
You have stated that you are proud to “help fight for and eventually win protections for Anchorage’s LGBTQ residents in employment, housing, and public accommodations. Will you continue in this line of protection for this group?
Absolutely. Not only must we continue to have these protections for LGBT residents of Anchorage, but we need to expand these protections to all LGBT Alaskans. No one should be afraid of losing their housing or employment simply because of who they love.
You have also talked about ending xenophobia and hatred of immigrants, after Donald Trump’s devastating four years. How are you going to help immigrants who come to Anchorage? Do you expect many immigrants to come to Anchorage in the near future?
Anchorage continues to be an inviting place for immigrants. For my part, I’d like to see the Anchorage Assembly work to develop relationships with these different communities so that everyone can engage with their local government. That’s the best way we can help our immigrant members in the community – we need to see them and hear them and understand their needs.
What social policies will you pursue with all other ethnic minorities, Hispanics, African Americans, Alaska Natives and other Indigenous peoples?
Right now, we are in the middle of a global pandemic. It is important that we don’t leave any parts of our community behind. Any measures we take to combat the virus or to mitigate the impacts of shutdowns should ensure equity among all parts of our community.
We cannot end the interview without referring to Covid. What are you going to do, or what are you already doing, from your official position, for public health and coronavirus protection and prevention in Anchorage?
I have been a strong supporter of the measures taken by the administration to mitigate the virus. We know what works – wear a mask, limit gatherings, and physical distance. I’ll continue listening to the science and working with the administration to take all logical steps possible to keep our community safe.