ANCHORAGE, Alaska — Anchorage residents were met with overcast skies Monday as their mayor took the oath of office – not in Alaska – but in sunny Honolulu, where it was warm, with classic Hawaii temperatures of 80 degrees.
Far from the temperatures that hovered in the upper 50s in his hometown, Anchorage Mayor Dan Sullivan wore a splashy Hawaiian shirt for his swearing in.
Sullivan had a previously scheduled family vacation and reunion in Hawaii, where his wife has family. The city calls for a mayor to be sworn in on July 1 or as soon thereafter as practical. But Sullivan doesn't return to Alaska until July 16.
To meet the July 1 requirement, Sullivan arranged to have a live video link established between Anchorage City Hall and a lawyer's office in Honolulu where he took the oath of office for his second term as mayor. Sullivan was re-elected in April.
"It' really an honor for me today to be able to share this experience with my Hawaiian family and friends," Sullivan said moments before the brief swearing in. "I'm very pleased that we're able to have this technology."
A state judge administered the oath, and Sullivan repeated it in Hawaii. Once that was completed, he and his wife Lynnette donned leis.
Afterward, he took questions from reporters attending the video broadcast in Anchorage at the mayor's city hall conference room. Asked why the family trip was scheduled when it was, Sullivan said the family reunion involved "a lot of different moving parts" and it was easier for him to arrange his schedule rather than have numerous people arrange theirs.
"And it really doesn't matter where you do the swearing in, what room you're in or where you're located," he said. "What really matters is the words that you swear and affirm to, to uphold the constitutions of the country, the state and, of course, the charter."
Sullivan signed off the broadcast by saying, "Aloha."
City officials say the long-distance oath is in line with the municipal law, which does not address long-distance oaths.
"We are embracing the phenomenal technology of the 21st century for what seems to be the very first mayor to ever sign oath via video conferencing," Sullivan's spokeswoman Lindsey Whitt told reporters and city officials before Sullivan took the oath. She said Sullivan's trip was a personal family vacation and was not a cost to taxpayers.
Sullivan signed forms that were notarized by the Honolulu attorney. But to ensure there is no debate about the distant signing, Sullivan will sign the oath again when he returns to Alaska, according to Municipal Attorney Dennis Wheeler.
"It takes two minutes and then there can be no questions," he said.
The video swearing could give the appearance to some that Sullivan was not taking the proceeding seriously, while supporters may not care one way or another, said Carl Shepro, a political science professor emeritus at the University of Alaska Anchorage. Shepro, a longtime observer of Alaska politics, said some might see the far-away proceeding as taking voters for granted.
"I guess it's not in good taste," he said. "I don't know if it's illegal – I doubt that it is – but it isn't something most other mayors or other officials would do."
Anchorage Assembly member Chris Birch said he had no problem with the manner chosen. He said teleconferencing is a long-established practice in business and government in the modern world.
"I think it's great," he said.