This afternoon, the City Council voted 5-1 to appoint Council member Tim Burgess as Seattle’s 55th Mayor, succeeding Bruce Harrell who will return to his position as Council President and representative of the 2nd District.
Five votes were required to appoint a Mayor. With Harrell unable to vote as acting Mayor, and Council member Lisa Herbold absent today, the Council’s ranks were already depleted. Further, the Seattle Ethics and Elections Committee recommended that nominees recuse themselves from voting, because the Mayor’s job pays more than a Council member’s job and thus there is financial benefit for a nominee to be appointed. So that left six people for a vote that requires five to pass.
Burgess was the only Council member nominated this afternoon. Council member Sawant spoke strongly against his nomination (though she declined to nominate an alternative candidate), citing some of his previous votes and legislative efforts and in particular his support for the North Precinct police station and for Mayor Murray’s pursuit of unsanctioned homeless encampment “sweeps.” But the other five Council members present all sung his praises, thanked him for his mentorship and his steady hand and voiced their support for him serving as Mayor until the end of November. And in recognition of the fact that today was Burgess’ last day on the City Council — ever — they took the opportunity to deliver the farewell messages that they would otherwise save until the Council’s last meeting in December.
Burgess gave a short acceptance speech following the vote:
“Thank you, colleagues, for your trust and confidence.
“For the past 10 years, the 2nd floor of City Hall has been my work home. It has been a great honor and privilege to serve with each of my colleagues and I’m grateful to the people of Seattle who have chosen me three times to serve them.
“This is certainly not the way anyone would have chosen to become mayor of our great city. It is, however, where we are.
“I promise to work every day for the next 71 days as mayor to help us heal and move the city forward.
“We will carry on our work to make Seattle a safe, fair and equitable city.
“We will serve all of our city, not one group or another; but everyone, all residents in every neighborhood and everyone who comes into the city to work their jobs.
“I take this transition from the legislative to the executive branch with all the gravity and seriousness of purpose the office demands. But, I cannot do it alone.
“I need the help of my colleagues here on the City Council, the team in my new office, the 11,000 City employees who work across the city every day and every hour, and, of course, my family.
“I’d like to take a moment introduce my family members who are here.
“Joleen, the woman who taught me love and forgiveness. This Saturday is our 40th wedding anniversary. I look forward to celebrating it.
“Our daughters—Kimberly, Katharine, and Elisabeth who is here with her husband Dahm Choi. These are strong, independent and accomplished women; they are the women who have made me who I am today. They have shaped my worldview. I cherish their wisdom and their love. And they’re not afraid to tell me when I’m wrong.
“Later this afternoon, I will take the oath of office and become mayor. And tomorrow, we will continue our work. Not simply because we have to, but because we want to.
“In fact, Councilmembers, I will return next Monday afternoon to deliver the 2018 budget for your consideration. It will be balanced. It will be fair and just. And it will uphold the progressive values of Seattle.”
Burgess will take the oath of office at 5pm this evening, at which point he officially becomes Mayor (and Harrell officially becomes Council President again, having been relieved of his duties as Mayor). UPDATE: here’s the official paperwork.
In the wake of Burgess’ ascension to the 7th Floor, the Council’s work this week is far from done. They need to make two more key appointments. First, they need to appoint a new Council member so serve through the end of November as a backfill for Burgess’ vacant seat, until either Jon Grant or Teresa Mosqueda is elected and the results are certified. That process has already become a political hot potato, with Sawant and her following agitating for an open, transparent process involving applications and interviews before a vote, while other Council members would like to seat someone before the end of the week so that the Council is a full nine people before Mayor Burgess delivers a budget to the city next Monday. The two leading candidates whose names are being whispered in City Hall are John Okamoto, who filled a vacancy two years ago when Sally Clark resigned; and former Council member Nick Licata, who has expressed interest.
The second important appointment for the Council to make is selecting a new Budget Committee Chair to succeed Burgess. Lisa Herbold, who is currently Vice Chair of the budget committee, is an obvious candidate, especially given her many years of service on Licata’s staff before being elected to the Council two years ago. But there are some who fear that she would push the budget direction too far toward the desires the left-leaning wing of the Council.
Expect both those issues to play out through the remained of the week. Herbold is due back on Friday and will rejoin the conversation. In the meantime, Gonzalez has punted the decision on the process for choosing a new Council member back to Harrell.