Bruce Harrell has decided not to keep the Seattle mayor’s job. The City Council will pick a new temporary mayor to serve through Nov. 28.
Instead, the council will choose another of its members to serve as mayor through Nov. 28 — when the results of the Nov. 7 election between Jenny Durkan and Cary Moon are certified.
Until the council does that, Harrell will continue to serve as mayor.
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“The issues facing this city are bigger than me,” he said Friday during a news conference at City Hall. “While I have a passion for excellence and boldness and a heck of a lot of energy, I’ve decided to decline the position.”
Harrell met Friday morning with both Durkan and Moon to discuss how one of them will take over Nov. 28, he said.
“They are both very capable leaders asking the right questions,” he said. “I’m confident we’re going to be in good hands.”
Before announcing his decision, Harrell signed four executive orders.
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One directs the city to respond to Seattle-based Amazon’s request for proposals for a second headquarters somewhere in North America.
“I’ve met with Amazon executives. I’ve spoken with Gov. (Jay) Inslee about this,” Harrell said. “If there are to be an additional 50,000 jobs … they should be for our residents.”
A second order says the city will partner with King County to help find alternatives to youth incarceration by providing other housing options for court-involved kids. Harrell said he hopes the order prompts the county to reconsider the design of its new detention center under construction in the Central District.
“Our city is filthy,” Harrell said, explaining that a third order says the city will identify hot spots for trash accumulation and illegal dumping in an effort to clean up the streets.
“I was cautioned not to use that word and I’m sure it’ll be a sound bite … But as an elected official, I’m embarrassed driving and walking in some areas of this city.”
Harrell’s fourth order says the city will re-examine its data vulnerabilities.
The city charter called for Harrell to take over from Murray initially but gave him five days in which to accept or decline the longer tenure.
Had Harrell accepted, he would have served until Durkan or Moon takes office.
Accepting would have required Harrell to give up his District 2 council seat. He has much of his four-year term remaining, having been last elected in 2015.
“I will return to the City Council and continue representing District 2. I was elected to serve the constituents of District 2, and I will continue to do so,” Harrell said.
“I have full confidence the council will elect a capable council member to carry out the remainder of the term.”
Potential candidates to serve as mayor in Harrell’s place include Councilmember Tim Burgess, who already is retiring at the end of the year, and Councilmember M. Lorena González, who is favored to win re-election Nov. 7 against community activist Pat Murikami.
The council could take action as soon as Monday, Harrell said.
In an interview Friday, Councilmember Sally Bagshaw said she would nominate Burgess. The most important business for the mayor and council this fall will be a new city budget, she said.
“He’s not running for re-election,” Bagshaw said. “And Tim has extensive experience with the budget … Having him at the helm makes a ton of sense.”
With Harrell currently serving as mayor, González is council president. In a statement Friday, she said she intends for the council to chose a mayoral replacement Monday.
After the council appoints another of its members to serve as mayor, it will need to appoint someone else to take that member’s seat temporarily.
The temporary council member doesn’t need to be someone currently working at City Hall.
The last time the council appointed a temporary member was in 2015, when Councilmember Sally Clark resigned to take a job at the University of Washington.
The council at the time appointed John Okamoto, who had previously been the city’s human-resources director and engineering director. He held the seat until González was elected later in the year.
Murray announced his resignation Tuesday, hours after a younger cousin of his became the fifth man to publicly accuse him of sexual abuse decades ago.
Before ending his remarks Friday, Harrell described a conversation with a close friend about his approach to the allegations against Murray. Harrell has spoken about the importance of judging others “on who we try to become,” rather than on past mistakes.
As a victim of abuse, the friend “needed to hear more” from Harrell, he said.
“So to the survivors, I hear you,” he said. “I’ve learned in life that truth always prevails over falsity, and that justice and karma are universal laws of life.”