Ethan Berkowitz and Mara Kimmel
This year Congregation Beth Sholom presents its Shining Lights Award to Mayor Ethan Berkowitz and Dr. Mara Kimmel for their inspired leadership, making our community - and our world - a better place.
Mayor of Anchorage since 2015, Ethan Berkowitz is committed to public safety, a strong economy, and sound energy policy. Leading the city's response to COVID-19, he has made difficult decisions to protect public health. He is grappling with a growing houseless population, seeking solutions with community partners. Under his direction, the city is building a more sustainable Anchorage, including installation of solar panels and improved waste management.
Mara Kimmel's work reflects her belief that our home state is a place we should all feel safe and secure. Her commitment to justice and opportunity for all Alaskans motivates her leadership to promote a welcoming and resilient Anchorage. She was a member of the State of Alaska’s Climate Action Leadership Team, and co-chaired the city's Climate Action Plan. A staunch defender of human rights, Mara also leads the city's human trafficking working group.
Move Forward, Be Bold, Dream Big
Ethan’s political philosophy blends the pragmatic and the aspirational – move forward, be bold, dream big. He views public service as a way to move the community closer to ideals of liberty and justice for all, to extend the American Dream as widely as possible, and to govern based on facts and results.
Berkowitz graduated with honors from Harvard College, majoring in government and economics. His undergraduate thesis led to three stints in the Antarctic, doing everything from shoveling snow to guiding to law enforcement. He went on to earn a master’s degree from Cambridge University’s Scott Polar Research Institute and law degree from Hastings College.
In 1990, Ethan moved to Alaska to serve as a law clerk with the state Court of Appeals. He then became a state prosecutor in the Anchorage District Attorney’s Office.
Berkowitz was elected to the state legislature in 1996, serving for 10 years in the Alaska House of Representatives. He was named minority leader after his first term, with a reputation for building bipartisan coalitions and taking a strong stance on ethics in government. A champion for fiscal responsibility, energy resources and public safety, he earned national recognition for his service to Alaska.
In the private sector, Berkowitz pursued his vision for Alaska's future, focussing on projects to develop renewable energy and fiber-optic infrastructure. He and Mara are also proud partners in a string of Anchorage restaurants.
Advocating, Educating & Standing up for Justice
Mara Kimmel lives by her creed of “stand up, don’t stand by.” Her leadership – as an advocate, educator and organizer – has inspired numerous Alaskans to stand up for human rights, justice and equity.
Mara came to Alaska while a college student, looking for summer adventure. During her summer travels, Mara found herself stranded on a tributary of the Yukon River after having lost her canoe to a log jam. Food dwindling, Mara watched with envy as a family of local moose effortlessly navigated the terrain that had stopped her in her tracks. Eventually, a family of humans paddled down the creek, stopping for the night and taking Mara back into civilization. The lessons were clear – never wander into the wilderness without telling people where you are going, don’t bring books like the Gulag Archipelago on backcountry trips, and respect the moose.
After spending a year in Fairbanks, Mara returned to the University of California-Berkeley to complete her bachelor’s degree in political science so she could come back to Alaska as soon as possible. She moved into a series of dry cabins, living without running water or electricity. Mara earned a masters’ degree in natural resource management from the University of Alaska Fairbanks. During and after her degree, Mara worked with Indigenous communities to protect land and subsistence rights. Her experiences inspired her to go to law school, and she returned to Alaska in 1996 with a degree from the University of Minnesota.
As an immigration lawyer, Mara pursued her passion for public policy, human rights, and social justice. She advocated for victims of human trafficking, domestic violence and political persecution, representing clients from all over the world. In 2005, Mara co-founded the Alaska Immigration Justice Project (now the Alaska Institute of Justice), a non-profit that provides legal and language services to immigrants and addresses human rights issues in Alaska.
Mara works with the Alaska Court System to promote access to justice, and with the Anchorage Museum on northern scholarship and research. Focussing her talents on equity issues, Mara also serves on the board of directors for the Alaska Institute of Justice, Welcoming America and the Anti-Defamation League–Pacific Northwest.