Durkan took the oath of office Tuesday afternoon. She was sworn in at the Ethiopian Community Center in Rainier Beach, the first of five neighborhood destinations as she set out to crisscross the city.
“Let’s get to work” was Jenny Durkan’s message as she took the oath of office as Seattle mayor Tuesday, becoming the first woman to lead the city since the 1920s as the result of her win in the Nov. 7 election.
Durkan was sworn in at the Ethiopian Community Center in Rainier Beach, the first of five neighborhood destinations as she crisscrossed the city on a Day One goodwill tour.
She began with remarks that matched her campaign rhetoric, vowing to reach out for ideas, address a growing gap between rich and poor and stand up to President Donald Trump.
“We must remember that our common bonds, our common purpose, are so much more powerful than our challenges and differences,” Durkan said after U.S. District Court Judge Richard Jones administered the oath.
She was speaking to a room at the community center brimming with Rainier Beach residents and City Hall brass.
Rather than deliver a speech at City Hall, like recent predecessors Ed Murray, Mike McGinn and Greg Nickels, Durkan took her inauguration on the road, making subsequent stops in Delridge, the Chinatown-International District, Phinney Ridge and Lake City.
“I’m here in Rainier Beach because I wanted to break tradition,” she said. “We will be a government, and I will be mayor not of City Hall but of the people.”
Durkan added, “I will be listening to you. I will be hearing you. I will be learning from you and I will be accountable to you.”
The city’s 56th mayor signed orders related to rental assistance and the city’s Race and Social Justice Initiative during her tour Tuesday.
The first order sets in motion an effort to help certain low-income households, including some on the waiting list for Seattle Housing Authority vouchers.
The second calls for a review of how the city is carrying out the Race and Social Justice Initiative that requires implicit bias training for city department directors.
On Wednesday, Durkan will announce her “Seattle Promise” college-tuition program, which on the campaign trail she said would offer all of the city’s public-high-school graduates two years of free community college.
Before the event, Metti Mulugeta reflected on Durkan’s choice to begin her term in one of its less-wealthy neighborhoods, where members of Seattle’s Ethiopian immigrant community have been working to build a new community center with housing and child care as they struggle to stay in an increasingly expensive city.
“She’s saying that she’s the mayor of everybody, not just the mayor of the haves,” said Mulugeta, 62, a preschool operator. “Now I can go to her office and remind her that she said she would help.”
New mayors usually assume office in January, but Durkan, 59, took over as soon as the election results were certified Tuesday because Murray resigned in September.
Because City Council President Bruce Harrell and Councilmember Tim Burgess each stood in as mayor after the resignation, with Harrell filling the role initially and Burgess serving for most of the fall, Durkan is Seattle’s fourth mayor in four months.
Her inauguration comes near the end of a bizarre year in city politics, which saw Murray’s clear path to a second term exploded by a series of sexual-abuse allegations.
With Durkan as mayor, the city may be moving on from that scandal, but that doesn’t mean December will be dull. There will be a steep learning curve on the job as Seattle grapples with rapid growth, housing and homelessness crises and snarled traffic.
“We have so many problems in Seattle,” said Mulumebet Retta, 71, a retiree. “We don’t have enough homes for people, and people like us who are immigrants and refugees, we’re having a hard time.”
Women dominated Seattle’s November election, as Teresa Mosqueda won one citywide City Council seat and incumbent M. Lorena González retained the other.
Mosqueda was sworn in Tuesday afternoon at City Hall.
“Once social change begins, it cannot be reversed,” she said afterward, quoting labor leader Cesar Chavez as she pledged to protect the rights of workers, immigrants and children. “We will not let our victories be reversed. We will not let our progress be undermined.”
The top four in August’s mayoral primary were all women, setting up a runoff between Durkan and urbanist Cary Moon, who was best known before the race as an activist for a waterfront park and against the Alaskan Way Viaduct replacement tunnel.
Durkan emphasized her prior experience leading a government office as U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Washington from 2009 to 2014.
A powerhouse lawyer and political insider who advised two Democratic governors and whose father was an influential state lawmaker and lobbyist, Durkan was the first openly gay U.S. attorney when she was appointed by President Barack Obama.
Calling Durkan the candidate of the business establishment, Moon, 54, said she would transform the city by fighting for racial justice and a more progressive tax system.
Murray’s resignation, hours after a fifth man — a younger cousin — accused him of sexual abuse, spelled trouble for Durkan. She had accepted his endorsement before the primary, whereas Moon had for months been calling for Murray to step down.
But Durkan pulled away as the race wore on, attracting more endorsements and donors while Moon struggled to raise money and sell herself as qualified to lead.
Durkan will be tested as she seeks to earn the trust of voters who backed other candidates and deals with pressure from social-justice activists.
But lingering inside the Ethiopian Community Center with her three children after Durkan’s departure, Selome Teshone was hopeful.
“I’m proud to have a woman mayor,” the 37-year-old business owner said. “She has a positive attitude and seems ready to work.”