Mark Begich sworn in as Anchorage mayor

Posted: Thursday, July 03, 2003

ANCHORAGE (AP) Mark Begich pressed his palm against the same Bible used to swear his father into public office decades ago and took the oath to become Anchorage's sixth mayor.

Begich pledged commitment to community, security and prosperity in Anchorage.

''Today, here in Alaska's headquarters city, the torch of leadership also has been passed to a new generation,'' said Begich, 41. ''As your mayor, I'll work hard to reignite the spirit of public service my parents taught me so that together we can realize Anchorage's enormous potential.''

Begich's parents came here in 1957. In 1970, his father became the third man elected to represent Alaska in the U.S. House but was in a plane that disappeared en route to Juneau two years later, when Begich was 10.

Since his teenage years, Begich has been a public person, whether he was opening a teen nightclub at age 16, working for then-Mayor Tony Knowles at age 20 or serving on the Anchorage Assembly from 1988 to 1998.

Begich's victorious mayoral campaign came on his third try. He is the first municipal mayor born and raised in Anchorage.

At Tuesday's ceremony, he was accompanied by his wife, Deborah Bonito, and their infant son, Jacob, who was handed to a friend backstage when he got a little fussy.

''He's heard many of Daddy's speeches,'' Begich, a Democrat, told the crowd.

The outgoing mayor, George Wuerch, a Republican, was defeated by Begich after serving one term. He sat with his wife, Brenda, onstage. He made no public remarks.

''Thank you for your service to the community and this nation and for the graceful cooperation of your administration since election,'' Begich said, turning toward the Wuerches.

Begich made a series of promises, from revitalizing downtown with a new convention center and an exciting shopping and entertainment district to nurturing an arts and cultural district in Mountain View to expanding the Anchorage port.

His administration, he said, will resolve land use issues in Girdwood, expand Eagle River's downtown business sector and continue the city's commitment to security, despite tight budgets.

''We will have a safe city,'' Begich said. ''A city where you can walk with your kids in your neighborhood, enjoy a summer evening on the Coastal Trail or visit from a remote village.''

The ceremony, at the Alaska Center for the Performing Arts, also included performances by the Voices of Shiloh choir, the Native group Pamyua, and Gruening Middle School eighth-grader Rose Hardman, who sang ''Alaska's Flag.''

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