Palin: The Iron-Fist Mayor?
WASILLA, Alaska — Earlier today, First Lady Laura Bush urged us to remember Gov. Sarah Palin’s record as mayor of her hometown from 1996-2002 when assessing her experience. I agree.
Driving around this city today, I decided it looks more or less like a string of strip malls, 45 minutes northeast of Anchorage. I couldn’t help but think that being mayor of a place like this would be something akin to running a large neighborhood watch.
The main highway that runs through town is lined with new big-box stores, including a Target and a Wal-Mart. A handful of fast-food chains as well as some local restaurants also sprinkle the main drag. Breathtaking mountains, the peaks still lightly dusted with snow, create a striking backdrop. Despite the chain stores, this small city feels distant from the rest of the world. I’d have guessed Palin would have run the city with a “we’re in this together” theme.
It turns out she had a somewhat different approach. If a small-town mayor ever ruled with an iron fist — it was Palin. Eleven days after taking office in 1996, she mailed letters to each of the city’s top managers requesting that they resign as a test of loyalty.
The Anchorage Daily News at the time reported the strange events: (via Nexis)
Mayor Sarah Palin sent the resignation requests Thursday to Police Chief Irl Stambaugh, public works director Jack Felton, finance director Duane Dvorak and Mary Ellen Emmons, the head of libraries. A fifth director — John Cooper, who oversaw the city museum — resigned earlier this month after Palin eliminated his position.
Cooper initially resisted resigning, but to no avail. Palin also later fired the police chief, saying she knew in her “heart” that he did not support her. She left the head of libraries a letter saying she was out — though Palin later decided to spare the librarian after being convinced that she would tow the line.
The whole saga is unusual — considering Palin prides herself on being independent and seems to enjoy butting heads with her own party. But, this sounds like she requires fierce loyalty of those who work for her.
I’m still reporting on Palin’s time as mayor. More to come soon.