KODIAK The City of Kodiak has hired Josephine ‘Josie’ Bahnke to serve as deputy city manager. Bahnke, who was selected by City Manager Mike Tvenge, started on May 1.
“Josie brings a great deal of local government experience to Kodiak and we are thrilled to have her on our leadership team,” Tvenge said via a news release.
Bahnke comes to the City of Kodiak with 17 years of state, local and tribal management experience. During an interview with the Kodiak Daily Mirror, she said that, despite having lived and traveled throughout the state, Kodiak felt like the “most Alaskan city” she’d ever been to. She also said that she was excited to return to working for a city, as opposed to her previous positions at a state level.
“I love being right here,” Bahnke said, of her return to working in city management.
Bahnke was born in Nome and raised in Fairbanks. She received a bachelor’s degree in political science from Fort Hays State University, returning to Alaska in 1996 to work with Senator Bert Sharp (R-Fairbanks), with whom she ended up working for three years.
“In between, I worked with our ANCSA village corporation for two summers in the lands department,” Bahnke said. “That experience combined with working for the state legislature was the impetus for me to go back to graduate school.”
After earning a master’s degree in public administration from Portland State University, Bahnke returned to Alaska to work with the Alaska Native regional corporation Kawerak Inc. from 2001-2004. Following this period, she took a job working with the state as a local government specialist. This position, she said, saw her “working to raise the administrative capacity of local government in the Bering Strait region, through training and on-site assistance.”
“As a local government specialist, I worked with all the communities in the Bering Strait region,” Bahnke said. “Budgeting, election, personnel –– everything to do with local government, but with a focus on water and sewer utility management.”
In 2008, the City of Nome was looking for a replacement for its long time manager. Bahnke said she was encouraged by local leadership to apply for the position; she ended up as the city manager for the next seven years. It was during this period that she first met Mike Tvenge, who was working as the city manager in Delta Junction at the time. Both Tvenge and Bahnke were, at different times, president of the Alaska Municipal Manager Association.
“For 10-11 years, I’ve known Mike. I respect his deep level of dedication to the residents,” Bahnke said, adding this was part of the reason she was interested in the position of deputy city manager. “After talking to the city manager and realizing that Kodiak has great leadership and good relationship between the mayor and the city council, good longevity in the staff … coming back to local government was really the appeal for me.”
Following her time as Nome’s city manager, Bahnke took a job working as director of the State Division of Elections under the Walker/Mallott Administration.
“Looking back on some of the major accomplishments in that timeframe, there was the implementation of the Toyukak settlement,” Bahnke said.
The Toyukak Settlement was the result of a 2013 lawsuit filed by the Native American Rights Fund against the state on behalf of an Alaska Native named Mike Toyakuk and others, including the Togiak Traditional Council. The lawsuit asserted that all election information provided in English should also be provided in Yup’ik, Gwich’in and Inupiaq. In 2015, the state agreed to provide a dozen language assistance provisions for 29 communities at each election.
“We worked really hard to improve the quality of our language assistance to Alaska Native voters,” Bahnke said. “That was a major accomplishment with the division at the time.”
Bahnke also cites the implementation of both automatic voter registration and the online voter registration system as other accomplishments that she oversaw with the division.
The city’s news release on Bahnke’s hiring as deputy city manager states that, throughout her career, “she has been recognized for being a results-oriented and an effective team leader with a track record for building collaborative partnerships and establishing positive work relationships.”