Mayor Jenny Durkan hasn't yet fully settled into her new office on the top level of Seattle city hall. Boxes remain unpacked; her artwork and presidential appointment certificate for U.S. Attorney are waiting to be hung on the walls.
“All weekend we were in here trying to organize different things,” admits the new Mayor.
However, before unpacking, she’s already sent a clear message that her administration plans to take quick action on the city’s top challenges. Day four of the Durkan administration began with news of two major resignations.
Seattle Police Chief Kathleen O’Toole says she’s stepping down later this month for personal reasons; a decision she made before Election Day.
Additionally, Mayor Durkan announced Seattle City Light CEO Larry Weis will be resigning, in a major shakeup at the public utilities department.
“It was clear to me that City Light one of the most important (departments) was somewhere where we needed to make a change,” said Durkan during a Monday news conference. “I talked to the director in terms of what my expectations were. We had a mutual decision that he would resign.”
Weis had been the city’s highest paid employee at $340,000 a year.
“If we pay in a certain range we expect certain performance,” said Durkan when asked about his salary.
The new administration will launch two separate nationwide searches for replacements, less than one week after taking office.
Already, the Mayor has signed three executive orders on rental housing vouchers, race and social justice and a new college tuition program. A new small business advisory council was formed last Thursday, and a regional approach on homelessness announced on Friday.
“It has been sustained activity, for sure, but we came in knowing that there was a number of things that had to get done and had to get done quickly. We’ve spend six months talking about what we had to get done, so I think people expect us to act,” said Mayor Durkan.
While Durkan didn’t reveal a specific timeline moving forward, she said she hopes to soon announce additional projects on topics including workforce and low-income housing.
“We’ll have to pace ourselves," said Durkan "Coming in, obviously there are changes that we’ll have to make both in personnel and where we’re going as a city, but I think people can expect there will be a pace of progress.”
Former Mayor Charley Royer, a supporter of Durkan and member of her transition team, believes the most important job of her first term will be selecting a new police chief.
Durkan’s search committee co-chairs include Jeffrey Robinson of the ACLU, former Mayor and Councilmember Tim Burgess, Colleen Echohawk of Chief Seattle Club and former King County Sheriff Sue Rahr.
“People don’t want inaction or indecision,” Royer said, reflecting on Durkan’s first week in office.
“She has an ambitious agenda though, and that’s a bit daunting,” continued Royer who has advised the Mayor to develop solid working relationships with her department heads and Seattle City Council.
“That’s going to be one of her tough uphill climbs,” said Royer, a three-time mayor, who also warns to expect the unexpected.
“The rule is stuff happens in a mayor’s office,” he said. “She has to be ready for that, and I’m sure she is.”