Alaska Human Rights Commission working to rebuild its image with new executive director

ANCHORAGE (KTUU) - The Alaska Human Rights Commission is working to rebuild its image following controversy that led to the removal and resignation of several of its board members and executive director.

The commission's newly appointed Executive Director, Marilyn Stewart, says she wants to focus on outreach, education and training following the "black rifle's matter" controversy back in March.

Former Executive Director Marti Buscaglia was under fire after leaving a note and state-issued business card on the hood of a vehicle with a "black rifles matter" sticker. In the note, Buscaglia wrote that the "black rifles matter" sticker was racist, and then posted about it on Facebook.

"Our focus is back on eliminating discrimination or any form of racism, and that's something I take to heart," said Stewart. "I have always been in community outreach, fostering relationships, mutual respect, and that is something that I bring to the table in this position."

Marylin Stewart is one of several new appointees to the seven-person board. Stewart says outreach, education, and training are a priority under her oversight.

"We talk about racism, we talk about discrimination, we try to help people understand the meaning of these things, so they can know if they should find themselves in one of these situations, they'll know how to identify it, and they'll know how to respond to it."

Stewart says regarding the previous controversy, the new board will be looking forward and not backward, while working on bringing a positive light to the commission.

"It's unfortunate that this has happened, but I've been in Alaska for 38, almost 39 years, and we have made it through tougher situations than this, and so I am assured, I have no doubt that within the next several months that the commission will come back even stronger."

Stewert has worked for the past several months under Governor Dunleavy as director of outreach. She's also worked under three previous governors and two mayors. She says having the opportunity to work with both the Republican and the Democratic parties will help her bring balance and perspective to the commission.

"Our focus is really on serving the individual, not the party. We don't focus on party affiliation. We focus on the individual, what their needs are, what their complaints are, and from the moment they walk in our door that is our total focus," she said.

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