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caption: Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan delivers a brief address about her final city budget proposal as mayor on September 27, 2021.
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Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan delivers a brief address about her final city budget proposal as mayor on September 27, 2021.
Credit: source: The Seattle Channel

'Mayors have...the most challenging political job in America.' An exit interview with Seattle's Jenny Durkan.

Last week Jenny Durkan stepped down from her position as mayor of Seattle. She spoke to Soundside host Libby Denkmann about her time in office.

Jenny Durkan says being mayor has always been a hard job. But the pandemic made it even more challenging.

"I think there's no doubt that mayors have probably the most challenging political job in America. And that was true before the pandemic. And it became even more true during in since the pandemic. The job of mayor is: how do you both take those great challenges, and not just be reactive, but think about durable solutions? I believe mayors saved America in the pandemic, and that when history is written, it will show that but for the actions of the mayors and the cities working together, we would have been in a very different place as a country.''

It wasn't just a global pandemic Durkan reckoned with in the past two years. Seattle also faced dangerous and unusual weather events such as heat waves and snow storms, a growing homeless population, and city wide protests regarding the treatment of Black people by police officers.

Those protests received national attention, particularly after the Seattle Police Department left the East Precinct in Capitol Hill, resulting in the creation of the Capitol Hill Organized Protest, or CHOP.

Durkan says that SPD never meant to abandon the precinct. But that balancing the rights of the protestors and the safety of the public was difficult.

RELATED: We know who made the call to leave Seattle Police’s East Precinct

"You had this dynamic situation where you now had a place based protest protected by the First Amendment. And you had to figure out how do you both support the absolute constitutional right to protest with the public safety needs to protect those protesters."

And some problems, Durkan says, just can't be solved by a single city. She pointed to homelessness as something that has to be addressed at a root level, praising Governor Inslee's financial commitment to increased funding for affordable housing.

As for advice for incoming mayor Bruce Harrell: Durkan says be proud of the work the city has already done. And most of all, hard changes take time.

"There is no microwave for good government. It takes time. It takes work. And don't lose patience and don't lose faith."