It didn’t take a vote of the people to oust Alaska’s Division of Elections director. Only one vote was needed.
Gail Fenumiai turned in her resignation Friday at the request of Lt. Gov. Byron Mallott, who oversees the division. The position wasn’t vacant for long. Mallott’s office announced Monday that Nome City Manager Josephine “Josie” Bahnke will assume the role starting Oct. 1.
Mallott spokeswoman Claire Richardson said the lieutenant governor wants to “have the best elections division in the country,” and bringing in Bahnke was “... an opportunity for him to put new leadership in.”
Fenumiai had served as director since 2008. Attempts to reach her by phone Monday were unsuccessful.
Bahnke, who holds a master’s degree in public administration from Portland State University and an undergraduate degree in political science from Hays State University, has been in her current position since 2008.
“I couldn’t be more excited about starting a new chapter in my professional career,” she told the Empire on Monday.
She said despite enjoying her current position in her hometown, Mallott’s goal for the elections division prompted her to accept.
Richardson praised both Fenumiai’s service to Alaska and also what the office is hopeful Bahnke will accomplish.
“She’s got a track record for building collaborative partnerships” and working with state agencies, Richardson said of Bahnke. “She has a lot of experience as city manager and running a staff of over 55 and over 50 volunteers.”
Bahnke said she will spend the next two months meeting with Division of Elections staff and election workers across the state before relocating to Juneau with her family permanently.
“I want to listen to what those involved have to say,” she said.
Bahnke won’t be new to the capital city. She worked here in the 1990s for two lawmakers.
Bahnke is originally from Nome and, according to her biography on the City of Nome’s webpage, has been involved with several nonprofit organizations and currently serves as president for the Nome Community Center Board of Directors and the Alaska Municipal Management Association.
Division of Elections Region 1 supervisor Lauri Wilson will fill the division’s top spot until Bahnke assumes the post. The division operates four regional branches and five offices in Juneau, Anchorage, Wasilla, Fairbanks and Nome.