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City Council President Bruce Harrell Sworn In As Mayor Of Seattle

Elaine Thompson
Seattle City Council President Bruce Harrell is sworn in as mayor by City Clerk Monica Martinez Simmons Wednesday Sept. 13, 2017, at Seattle City Hall.

Updated at 10:41 a.m. Thursday, Sept. 14, 2017, with more details.

Seattle City Council President Bruce Harrell was sworn in as the city's 54th mayor Wednesday evening, after former Mayer Ed Murray resigned over sex abuse allegations.

Murray announced Tuesday that he was stepping down effective 5 p.m. Wednesday.

His decision came just hours after The Seattle Times reported that a fifth man, a cousin of Murray's, had alleged that Murray abused him decades ago.

Murray has denied all the allegations but said his resignation was in the city's best interests.

On the seventh floor of City Hall, Harrell was surrounded by other city officials as he was sworn in. He said that should signal that the duties of the city's government go beyond one person or one office and that he does not see his temporary role as a "caretaking obligation."

"I see this as an opportunity to set the stage for excellence," Harrell told a crowd of reporters, city staff, friends and family. "I have too much appreciation for the issues our city faces to be a caretaker any day of the week."

Harrell has five days to decide whether to remain mayor until results from this year's election are certified in late November. If he declines, the council will appoint someone else from their ranks.

He said he has set a personal deadline of Friday at 5 p.m. to announce his decision. He has told the City Council to be prepared to appoint someone else by Monday, Sept. 18, should he choose decline.

Harrell so far has given no indication if he's leaning one way or the other.

"I don't want to swivel around in a chair. It's the needs of the city, and that's going to be the most important factor that I decide before I make my announcement Friday," Harrell said.

However, if Harrell decides to remain mayor for the interim, he would have to give up his council seat even though he has two years left on his term. 

Two other council members wouldn't have that problem. Councilmember Tim Burgess was already planning to retire this year. Councilmember Lorena Gonzalez is up for election in November and could return to her seat if she is reelected.

Whoever becomes mayor for the next couple months will take part in the city's budgeting process. Harrell said whether he puts forth a budget proposal as mayor or evaluates one as a council member, the city will be tackling its biggest issues.

"Everyone in this room knows those issues: Housing affordability, homelessness, transportation, environmental sustainability, public safety and public accountability," Harrell said.

In light of the allegations against Murray, that process will also include looking at how the city can support survivors of sexual violence, Harrell said.

His first act as mayor was to sign an executive order to put Administrative Services Director Fred Podesta in charge of overseeing the transition process. He also said he is looping in mayoral candidates Cary Moon and Jenny Durkan.

Either Moon or Durkan will take office as soon as the election results are certified, instead of in January.

A Seattle native and former KNKX intern, Simone Alicea spent four years as a producer and reporter at KNKX. She earned her Bachelor's of Journalism from Northwestern University and covered breaking news for the Chicago Sun-Times. During her undergraduate career, she spent time in Cape Town, South Africa, covering metro news for the Cape Times.