SEATTLE — Colleen Echohawk announced she is running to replace Jenny Durkan as Seattle's mayor.
"I love the city. I have been here for 20 years, I have worked hand in hand with some of our community organizations, with some of our elected leaders with business. And over the years have just realized how much I believe in this city," Echohawk said.
Echohawk is the executive director of the non-profit Chief Seattle Club. She received numerous awards for her service and time on advocacy for the homeless, and in particular, unsheltered Native Americans. She is the founder of the Coalition to End Urban Native Homelessness.
Echohawk is an enrolled member of the Kithehaki Band of the Pawnee Nation and a member of the Upper Athabascan people of Mentasta Lake, and said she would be a "new face, a new kind of way of working in City Hall."
Echohawk is one of the first people to announce their campaign to replace Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan, who will not seek re-election.
She has successfully dabbled in city politics for years, and has been seen by many civic observers as a rising star. The King County Council awarded her the Martin Luther King Medal of Distinguished Service in 2020, and she's been called one of Seattle's "most influential people" by Seattle Magazine and Seattle Met Magazine.
Echohawk has co-chaired the Seattle Community Police Commission, and helped provide feedback on the hiring of former Police Chief Carmen Best. The background in two of the city's biggest issues leads her to believe she's prepared to be mayor.
"I want to remind all of us that we don't have enough housing in the city, that's a big, huge, huge problem," she said. "We do not have enough affordable housing for our community. We also know that with COVID, and with the impact of COVID, we have more and more people who have fallen into homelessness, or are at risk of homelessness because of COVID. So we do have to have someone at the helm who understands these issues, and I have a very good track record of serving our homeless community. she said.
"I think we can do a lot of work immediately to be taking care of some of the environmental impact of the rubbish and other stuff that's around, I think we can do that. Soon. "
On policing, she said, "Do I think that we need to move some resources out of sale police department? Yes. I would like to see those resources be put into supporting mental health like we have a crisis of mental health in our city," but "I want to bring everyone to the table and talk about what is going to truly work and can get done, we have to remember that we're looking at a huge system. And it takes time to figure out how to get the systems to change."
Echohawk has history with the business community as well being a part of the board of the Downtown Seattle Association, a point of which she says speaks to her ability as a "bridge builder."
The Seattle mayor's race is likely to draw a variety of candidates, but so far only one person has officially raised any money.
South Seattle's Lance Randall is a former city economic development employee, and has pro-business credentials. The member of the First AME Church has quietly been meeting with various stakeholders around the city, touting his fresh approach to dealing with homelessness, and his history of creating economic growth in communities of color.
Seattle City Council President Lorena Gonzalez is widely believed to be mulling a mayoral campaign, and would likely be a front runner if she chose to do so. However, she has also eyed runs for other offices, including a short-lived campaign in 2019 for State Attorney General.