Spotlight on new mayors of Everett, Seattle and Tacoma

General Assembly panel highlights women in regional leadership

A panel discussion featuring new mayors from Everett, Seattle and Tacoma – who all happen to be women – capped off last week’s General Assembly meeting.  (Watch the video here.)

Mayor Becky Erickson, in her ninth year as mayor of Poulsbo, moderated the discussion with Mayor Cassie Franklin, Mayor Victoria Woodards, and Mayor Jenny Durkan.

Erickson shared that when she was approached to moderate a panel of women mayors, she felt uncomfortable.

 “Why do we want to talk about women mayors? I just want people to think of me as a mayor, not a woman mayor.”

But she noted that this is a time when women in political leadership are coming of age.

“It’s been a long time coming,” Erickson said.

She asked the panel how the new job was going.

 “I think it is the job where my head and my heart finally got connected. I get to wake up every single day and think about everything that I do to make my city a better place for everyone who lives there. Every decision we make affects somebody in our community,” Woodards said.

“It is the most rewarding job on the planet because you feel every day you can make a difference.   You get to work side by side with your constituents, you get to work side by side with incredible staff and regional leaders and you can see the direct impact of that work,” Franklin said.

 “It can be hard sometimes. But if you look at what is happening nationally and where we are in the arc of history, I think that progress on the things that matter most to people and that affect their everyday lives will happen locally, at the city, county and state level,” Durkan said, adding “I think our region together can set the bar on so many of those challenges we’re facing today by working collaboratively.”

The panelists all agreed it is a 24/7 job – with a packed schedule and countless meetings with constituents on the street, at the grocery store and dentist office – but that contact with residents is rewarding.

“It warms my heart.  When you have a little African American girl who walks up to you and asks, ‘you’re the mayor?’ and I say, ‘I’m the mayor.’  And she says, “I can be mayor!” And I say, 'absolutely, you can be mayor,'” Woodards said.  

As the region faces continued growth – nearly 2 million more people by 2050 – the mayors emphasized the need to work together across the four counties and within counties to solve problems.

“The opportunities in front of us require that regional approach. For us to be globally competitive, we have to work together. We have to increase our global brand and compete with the rest of the world. That requires us to work as one system,” Franklin said.

 “That global competition is not between our three cities. We are competing with people across this country and across the world for the jobs and opportunities for our communities. It’s really important for us to remember that and to continue to break down those barriers,” Woodards said.

The mayors agreed on the need for regional approaches to shared challenges of housing affordability, homelessness, job creation, and transportation.

“Improving infrastructure for Everett and Tacoma helps Seattle. Anything we do that supports each end of the region supports the entire region,” Franklin said.

Durkan noted that we’re living in a time that is more transformative than the industrial revolution. The innovation economy is taking off and the old economy is dropping.

Most of the jobs expected in the region in the future will require a post high-school degree or certificate. Only 30 percent of the region’s kids are getting it, she said.

“We will not be competitive if we don’t provide opportunity to all of our kids regardless of their economic status, their race, or where they are,” Durkan said, adding “We have to make sure that opportunity is shared, that there is affordable housing, that we tackle the issue of homelessness… and we have to make sure that as a region we are preparing our kids for the future. Because if we don’t, there is no future.”

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