Seattle’s 54th Mayor Bruce Harrell will reveal on Friday whether he will serve in the city’s top office for a matter of days or months.
“Today has been outstanding,” he said of his first full day in office. “There are members in the Murray administration that are just outstanding, is the word that comes to mind, extremely committed to the people of Seattle.”
“Right now, we’re looking at probably the most pressing issues. Tomorrow I’ll be talking about a few of those,” he said without giving further details about Friday's plans.
When asked if he’s closer to making a final decision about whether he’ll serve the rest of Murray’s term, he said with a smile: “I’m about 24 hours closer."
“I did give myself a 5 o'clock deadline, and so I'm going to take care of every minute of that to make that decision,” he said.
Harrell would have to give up his seat on City Council if he decides to take the job through November; his current term still has more than two years left.
However, as Council President, per city charter, he was sworn in Wednesday evening, the hour former Mayor Ed Murray’s resignation took effect.
Less than 24 hours later, signs of transition on the seventh floor were well underway, as the office prepares for new leadership.
Harrell and Director of Operations Fred Podesta plan to meet with mayoral candidates Jenny Durkan and Cary Moon on Friday. The winner in November will start her term early, after results are certified on November 28.
Before the end of the year, the Mayor and Council must still pass a city budget, a proposal Harrell indicated he’s already examining with the City’s Budget Office director.
“I’m talking to an outstanding leader in Ben Noble about what’s in the budget,” said Harrell. “I have to be cognizant of the fact that I could be a councilmember next week, and so I’m just sorta looking at some overall issues. But, this isn’t new that the council and the mayor we have worked collaboratively on the budget prior to it being released, so no change there.”
City leaders have stressed a message of business moving forward at Seattle City Hall, after this week’s unexpected resignation, news that made national headlines.
“Certainly there's been distracting news with the scandal and all this kind of stuff, so we have to be honest about it,” said Harrell. “But, we also have to be honest that we have the kind of employees here that rise to the occasion. I think that’s what we’re seeing, people are rising to the occasion. We acknowledge that the city has gone through a lot in terms of its leadership, but we are also acknowledging that now is the time to kick it into the right gear,” he continued.
If Harrell declines on serving the rest of Murray’s term, he’s asked the council to be in position on Monday to take a vote on designating another member.
Councilmember Tim Burgess, one potential candidate since he's retiring at the end of the year, declined to comment Thursday on whether he would be interested in the job.
"I really want to honor Bruce's decision-making process and let him come to that decision on his own," Burgess said earlier in the week.
In another potential scenario, Councilmember Lorena Gonzalez, who is running for re-election, could briefly step in as mayor and then regain her council seat, if she wins her race in November.
Meanwhile, the Seattle City Employees Retirement System says former Mayor Murray will be eligible for his pension benefits, even though he resigned, since he meets the age and service requirements.
Murray will be eligible for roughly 9 percent of his highest average salary, according to a member services manager.
Last year, the salary for Seattle Mayor was around $193,000.