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City Council President Bruce Harrell becomes Seattle’s 54th mayor; Ed Murray steps down

September 14, 2017 in Hot Business Tips, In the news, Members Only by admin

City Council President Bruce Harrell becomes Seattle’s 54th mayor; Ed Murray steps down

Seattle City Council President Bruce Harrell took the oath of office Wednesday afternoon, a day after a fifth man accused Mayor Ed Murray of child sexual abuse dating back several decades.

Seattle City Council President Bruce Harrell took the oath of office to become mayor Wednesday, as Ed Murray, disgraced by allegations of child sexual abuse, ended his time at City Hall.

The moment was bittersweet for Harrell, a Seattle native who advanced from Garfield High School to the University of Washington football team, a legal career and three terms on the council.

 The 58-year-old assumed the city’s highest office after Murray on Tuesday announced he would step down amid allegations that he sexually abused multiple teenagers decades ago, including a younger cousin. The cousin’s accusation was first made public Tuesday in The Seattle Times.

In remarks before taking the oath a bit after 5 p.m., Harrell said it’s time for the city to heal. He said the city should be looking for ways to support survivors of childhood sexual abuse.

“I personally believe now is not the time for division or taking sides. For me it’s a time for healing,” he said.

But in a session with reporters, Harrell later added, “If any kind of heinous act was committed … certainly a person should be judged for that.”

In the summer, after four men had accused Murray of abusing them when they were teenagers, Harrell did not urge Murray to resign. Only two council members did.

In July he told reporters, “I don’t want to be judged for anything 33 years ago … And I would challenge each of you to think about where you were 33 years ago. The question is are you doing your job today right now?”

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The city charter’s language on the transition of power ensures that Harrell’s time as mayor will be short.

Though the city charter calls for the council president to take over immediately when the mayor’s office becomes vacant, it gives Harrell five days — until 5 p.m. Monday — to accept or decline a longer tenure.

Harrell said before taking the oath that he plans to make that decision by Friday. He joked it would be his wife’s decision.
If Harrell accepts that longer tenure, he’ll serve as mayor until Nov. 28, when the results of the Nov. 7 mayoral election between Jenny Durkan and Cary Moon are certified.
If Harrell declines, he’ll become mayor pro tem and the council will have 20 days to choose another of its members to serve into November, City Attorney Pete Holmes said Wednesday.

“The overall logic of the charter is to make sure there’s complete continuity,” Holmes said. “There’s no period of time without a mayor or a mayor pro tem.”

 While Harrell so far has offered no comment on what his decision may be, there’s a decent chance he’ll decline.

If Harrell were to serve as mayor through Nov. 28, he would be unable to return to his council seat, according to Holmes.

“He would forfeit his seat,” the city attorney said.

In a statement Tuesday, Harrell said, “I intend to make an announcement within the five days on my intentions and will talk to my family, my colleagues on the Seattle City Council, and trusted members of our city on this decision with the understanding that the city and continuity of governance comes before all other factors.”

Most recently elected in 2015 to represent Southeast Seattle neighborhoods such as Beacon Hill, Rainier Valley and Rainier Beach, Harrell has more than two years remaining in his term, which runs through 2019.

If Harrell were to decline, Councilmembers Tim Burgess and M. Lorena González likely would be leading candidates to serve as mayor. Burgess is retiring at the end of the year, while González is likely to win re-election to her council seat in November.

González could give up her seat to serve as mayor and then take it back, Holmes said.

González and Kshama Sawant were the only council members to call for Murray’s resignation before Tuesday, when a younger cousin of Murray’s became his fifth accuser. They said in July that Murray should step down.

Harrell was among those who argued for Murray to stay in office.

“I don’t believe he should resign today,” Harrell said July 17. “If I see examples of him abdicating his responsibilities, not working hard, and not making sure a smooth transition occurs, I would ask for his resignation. But I have no basis to believe that at all today.”

Harrell was first elected to the council in 2007, winning an open seat vacated by Peter Steinbrueck. He ran for mayor in 2013, falling short in a crowded primary election that saw Murray and incumbent Mike McGinn move on.

In 2015, he narrowly defeated underdog council challenger Tammy Morales, who said his politics weren’t progressive enough.

Married to Joanne Harrell, a Microsoft executive and member of the UW Board of Regents, he lives in Seward Park.

The son of a Japanese-American mother and an African-American father, Harrell grew up hearing stories of his grandfathers working hard amid racial bigotry.

“He has deep roots in the city, deep roots in the community,” said Ollie Garrett, president of Tabor 100, an empowerment association for African Americans and the community at large. “He’s very committed to inclusion — making sure everyone is treated fairly and equally … He understands discrimination.”

Added former Councilmember Sally Clark, “When I think of my time working with Bruce, I think of a guy with his nose to the grindstone … And he knows a heck of a lot of people.”

Clark said she texted Harrell Tuesday, telling him he’d “do great.”

“He gets to take the oath of office,” she said. “It’s under strange circumstances but, even for a short period of time, it’s heady and momentous stuff. It’s a big responsibility and he’s got big shoulders.”

Harrell will be Seattle’s 54th mayor. The city’s last mayor to resign was J.D. (Dorm) Braman, who stepped down in March 1969. Floyd Miller served as interim mayor until Wes Uhlman was elected that November.

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