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The deputy director of the Anchorage Public Library is resigning, less than three weeks after the Anchorage Daily News and ProPublica published an article that documented her history of inflammatory comments and social media posts.
Mayor Dave Bronson announced Judy Eledge’s resignation Tuesday and said her last day will be Monday.
Eledge, a longtime conservative stalwart in Alaska, was appointed library director by Bronson in August 2021. But after it became clear she would not be confirmed by the Anchorage Assembly, she became deputy director, a role that does not require nomination hearings or approval by the Assembly. In that role, she essentially led the library until late last year, when a new director started work.
Eledge’s tenure was fraught with controversy, as employees accused her of making racist and inappropriate comments — some of which were recorded — and fostering a hostile work environment. She was at the center of ongoing lawsuits in state and federal court over the firing of the city’s former director of the Office of Equal Opportunity, who asserts she was let go in retaliation for reporting employee complaints about Eledge.
The Bronson administration is requesting city funds to settle with the Office of Equal Opportunity’s ex-director.
Eledge did not immediately respond to interview requests by phone and email on Tuesday.
In a resignation letter addressed to Bronson, which was obtained by the Daily News, Eledge said she is stepping down “per our discussion several weeks ago.” Eledge said in the letter her departure “is due to personal issues,” as she has a major surgery scheduled this month.
In the letter, Eledge also listed issues she worked on during her library tenure, including implementing a “one bag rule” for library visitors and a ticket system for homeless people and travelers to store items in a locked closet; taking steps toward renovating the Alaska Collection room and returning the collection there; and selecting the former City Hall building as the site for a new downtown library branch.
“Moving forward, I believe that even more positive accomplishments can be achieved if politicizing these positions can be avoided,” Eledge said in the letter.
The Daily News and ProPublica reported that on March 14, 2022, in a surreptitiously taped conversation with a co-worker, Eledge shared her disgust with the use of Indigenous land acknowledgements and the sharing of pronouns. She called transgender people “very troubled.”
“Equitable, to me, is a racist word,” she said to her subordinate, who recorded the conversation because she feared no one would believe her about how Eledge interacted with her colleagues. At one point, Eledge noted that library employees were working to “wipe out everything white in the world.”
Eledge, 76, also lamented how a library worker was removing books that contained the word “Eskimo,” a term that is now seen by many as unacceptable.
“I happened to live in Barrow,” she said, referring to the mostly Inupiat city that residents in 2016 renamed Utqiagvik. “They consider themselves Inupiat Eskimos but they got a bunch of woke, liberal, I consider racist Native people, young people. … It’s all about, ‘We stole their land.’ Which is bullshit!”
In a brief phone conversation last month, Eledge said she could not comment on accusations involving her statements at the library because they are the subject of a lawsuit. Asked about her social media posts, which are not included in the lawsuit, Eledge said, “I’ve already commented on those when I was running for school board.”
Following the announcement of Eledge’s resignation, the Assembly voted 9-2 on Tuesday night to approve a resolution drafted last week calling for her to resign. The measure’s main sponsor, West Anchorage Assembly member Kameron Perez-Verdia, initially moved to kill the measure, since Eledge had already resigned.
But Perez-Verdia rescinded his motion after several other members said they still had a duty to take an official stand and condemn Eledge’s behavior — especially, they said, because she is currently representing Alaska as part of a national education commission.
In March, Gov. Mike Dunleavy appointed Eledge to the Education Commission of the States. A spokesperson for Dunleavy said Tuesday that the governor did not plan to remove Eledge from the commission. The spokesperson did not answer questions about the governor’s rationale.
Assembly Chair Christopher Constant said Tuesday night, “I’m really saddened by the fact that that is the voice Anchorage is leading with in the federal government and setting education policy for the whole country.”
An Assembly member who voted against the resolution, Kevin Cross, said that while he understands her position was controversial, “when somebody’s willing to leave, you don’t slam the door behind them.”
Perez-Verdia, who grew up in Utqiagvik, said he pursued the Assembly resolution after numerous members of the Alaska Native community contacted him with “extreme concern” about Eledge’s comments.
“I was pleased about the announcement,” Perez-Verdia said of her resignation. “I think it was the right choice.”
But the city continues to face claims about the damage caused by Eledge’s remarks. The former library employee who provided a recording of Eledge’s remarks to the Daily News on Tuesday filed a lawsuit against the city, according to her attorney.
The lawsuit claims that the city failed to act on complaints made by the woman and five other library employees and failed to investigate reports of discrimination made against Eledge. The lawsuit also claims the employee experienced retaliation for reporting discrimination within the city Fire Department, where she worked before the library.
The mayor’s office did not answer emailed questions from the Daily News about whether Bronson had asked Eledge to resign or whether her resignation was connected to the Assembly’s proposed resolution, her history of inflammatory comments or the lawsuit.
At Tuesday’s Assembly meeting, Bronson thanked Eledge for her service, adding, “I personally wish her the best for her recovery from surgery.”
“I’m confident in the staff and Director [Virginia] McClure to continue leading our library successfully into the future,” Bronson said.