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For The First Time, Tacoma Picks A Woman To Run City Government

Courtesy of city of Tacoma
Tacoma City Manager Elizabeth Pauli

After a nationwide search for a new city manager, Tacoma leaders chose someone close to home.

City Council members tapped Interim City Manager Elizabeth Pauli for a permanent job Tuesday, making her the first woman to manage Washington's third-largest city. 

Pauli had already been running Tacoma's government since February, after former City Manager T.C. Broadnax left for a job in Dallas, Texas.

City Council members said that experience made her an obvious choice for city manager.

"It's really clear that you love Tacoma, and you're truly committed to its potential and its success," Councilman Ryan Mello told her before the vote. 

Pauli entered the running late in the game, agreeing on Saturday to be considered for the job, but quickly rose above finalists from a coast-to-coast search, according to Mayor Marilyn Strickland. 

"If Elizabeth Pauli had put her hat in the ring back in March, and had applied with the other applicants, she would have easily risen to the top and would have been a distant first," Strickland said.

Pauli has worked in Tacoma's government for 19 years, including 12 as city attorney. 

In Tacoma’s form of government, a new city manager is a make or break decision. She oversees the city’s 2,000 employees and runs the day-to-day operations of the government, similar to a mayor in other cities.

The decision comes at a pivotal time for Tacoma. The city is growing, and rents are rising. Officials are revamping the way they deal with homelessness and rethinking the future of the city's industrial tideflats area.

City Council members also interviewed four finalists who work in the city governments of  Fayetteville, N.C.; Evanston, Ill.; Amarillo, Texas; and Port Townsend, Wash. Two candidates dropped out of the running before Tuesday's vote. 

Editor's note: Marilyn Strickland is a member of the KNKX board of directors. The board does not manage news coverage or day-to-day operations. 

Will James is a former KNKX reporter and was part of the special projects team, reporting and producing podcasts such as Outsiders and The Walk Home.