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City Councilmember Tim Burgess Appointed As Interim Mayor Of Seattle

Elaine Thompson
City Councilmembers Tim Burgess and Bruce Harrell listen during a public hearing in July 2017 on Seattle's proposed income tax. Burgess will take over from Harrell as temporary Mayor of Seattle.

City Councilmember Tim Burgess will act as Seattle's mayor for the next couple of months. He was appointed in a 5-1 vote of the City Council on Monday afternoon.

Councilmember Kshama Sawant voted no. Burgess abstained, and Councilmember Lisa Herbold was absent.

Burgess is the city's third mayor in less than a week.

Per Seattle's city charter, City Council President Bruce Harrell took over as mayor after Ed Murray resigned from the position on Sept. 13. But Harrell declined Friday afternoon to keep the temporary position.

Murray resigned after The Seattle Times reported that a fifth man, Murray's cousin, is accusing the former mayor of sexual abuse decades ago. Murray denies all of the allegations.

Burgess will act as mayor until the results of this year's mayoral election are certified in late November.

"This is certainly not the way anyone would have chosen to become the Mayor of Seattle, but it is where we are at today," Burgess said after his colleagues voted to appoint him. "And I promise to work every day for the next 71 days as mayor to help heal and move the city forward."

Often considered a more moderate voice on an increasingly left-leaning City Council, Burgess is the longest-sitting council member along with Harrell. 

As mayor, Burgess' major task will be presenting the council with a budget next week. He will also be responsible for leading the transition process with mayoral candidates Jenny Durkan and Cary Moon.

Whoever wins will take office immediately after the results are certified, instead of in January.

Burgess is not running for re-election and was planning to retire from the council at the end of his term this year, so there are no concerns about returning to his seat after acting as mayor.

Harrell, who represents southeast Seattle, would have had to give up his council seat where he has two years left on his term.

"I really care about this city, and there are issues on the council through the budget process that I think need my leadership," Harrell said at at news conference Friday.

The City Council will also have to appoint someone to fill the vacancy created by Burgess' becoming mayor. Burgess' seat is a citywide position.

Council members discussed two options for that process during the council briefing Monday morning. They can either appoint someone right away or take up to 20 days to solicit applications.

Councilmembers Rob Johnson and Sally Bagshaw said they preferred the first option, hoping to make the appointment this week before budget negotiations start. Councilmember Sawant suggested opening it up to applications and expediting the vetting process.

Acting City Council President Lorena Gonzalez said Harrell would oversee the appointment process when he returns to the council. 

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.