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Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan reflects on her first year in office

Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan is marking one year in office this week. She says a lot has been accomplished in a year, but there are still challenges ahead.

Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan acknowledged Monday that the controversial repealed head tax was on the verge of sinking the signature achievement of her first term. Durkan was inaugurated on November 28 of last year.

In a wide-ranging interview highlighting her first year in office, Durkan said the Families and Education Levy, which was overwhelmingly approved by voters, was “number one towards the top of the list” of achievements during her term.

She also believes providing Orca cards for high school students, establishing a new police guild contract, and the hiring of Seattle Police Chief Carmen Best were also highlights.

“We’ve accomplished a lot in a year,” Durkan said with a smile during a stop in South Seattle. “We’ve moved the needle on homelessness, not as much as we’d like,” she noted.

Homelessness is an issue, along with transportation, which will likely dominate her term in office. She acknowledged the city’s response and divisive debate over a so-called Head Tax were threatening to derail other initiatives.

“I think I learned a couple of things I don't think it does anybody any good to continually look in the rear view mirror - we were faced with a reality where the voters made clear they didn't want to go down that road,” Durkan told KING5. “To go continue going forward, we were going to have to fight the people we represent and serve; we were going to create an atmosphere where people would fight for months.”

It also might have meant conflating the issue, during an election cycle, with another vote on the education levy.

“I think the fight could have brought it down - we needed everybody at the table to make it work and we needed people to trust to make it work,” she said. “I think it would have been really hard to get that over the hill.”

There is another challenge brewing in a little more than a month. Seattle and all of its roads will be impacted by the closure of the Alaskan Way Viaduct and the opening of the new State Route 99 Tunnel. Durkan makes no excuses now.

“We are going into the worst traffic period ever in Seattle,” she said bluntly. “We're taking a very strategic approach.”

The approach means new water taxis in West Seattle and shuttles to and from the dock and to the RapidRide buses. That also means changing bus routes and flexible hours for city employees.

WATCH | Getting around the SR 99 closure

“If we can get it right, we can start changing behaviors and patterns,” Durkan said.

Durkan says she used to joke on the campaign trail that traffic was going to get worse, and it wasn’t the Mayor’s fault.

“Now that I'm mayor, I know everyone looks to you. You're the one that really has to try and move the city, move the region,” she said.