From Seattle police officer and detective to City Council member and mayor, Tim Burgess has given a lot to his hometown and deserves Seattle’s thanks.
Tim Burgess has given a lot to the city of Seattle — from his time as a police officer to a short stint as mayor.
The good news is he’s not leaving the civic scene just yet. Before he could inch a little closer to retirement, Seattle’s new mayor, Jenny Durkan, reached out and signed him up as one of four co-chairs on the committee that will help find Seattle’s next police chief.
Hiring a police chief arguably is the most important job a mayor can do, and we witnessed with former Mayor Mike McGinn what can happen when a mayor misses the mark.
Burgess had the distinction of being perhaps the only city council member who had served on the force. It was that experience that put him on the team that hired Police Chief Kathleen O’Toole, a quality pick.
Perhaps one of Burgess’ biggest contributions to his hometown, however, was the role he played while on the council, helping push the city toward badly needed police reforms.
Burgess approached police reform from the intersection of accountability, social justice and public safety. Mayor Durkan, who was the U.S. attorney in Seattle while negotiating the police reform consent decree, thinks they may not have succeeded without Burgess’ leadership.
“Partly because he was a police officer before … he understood there is a close connection between public trust and public safety,” Durkan said.
The new mayor calls Burgess, who was her predecessor — temporarily — one of the most fair and measured people she knows, someone who listens to all sides and strives for consistency and continuity in local government.
The Seattle Police Department is now known for its police reforms. But there’s always more room for improvement, and that’s the kind of laserlike focus Burgess can bring to his next civic achievement. In short: How can the next police chief build on the reforms already in place?
Burgess’ roots in the department extend all the way back to the early 1970s, when he joined the force, first on patrol and then as public-relations officer and detective. His political career started in the 1990s when he began 12 years of service to the Seattle Ethics and Elections Commission.
After criticizing the City Council over the “Strippergate” scandal, Burgess took his public service up another notch and ran for a seat on the council. He was elected in 2007 and announced his retirement a decade later. After Mayor Ed Murray resigned, Burgess stepped in and assumed the role.
After a decade on the council and 71 days as Seattle’s 55th mayor, Burgess has earned a warm thank you from his hometown.