New Seattle City Council sworn in, Sara Nelson elected president

The Council kicked off the year swearing in five new members and two incumbents. 

Councilmembers listen to public comments

Councilmembers listen to public comments during the Seattle City Council’s first meeting of the year at City Hall, Jan. 2, 2024. (David Ryder for Crosscut)

2024 is off and running at Seattle City Hall.

On Tuesday, in council chambers filled with family and friends, the Seattle City Council held a swearing-in ceremony for five newly elected members and two reelected members.

The City Council voted 9-0 to elect Citywide Councilmember Sara Nelson as the 2024-2025 Council president. 

In addition, Council committee assignments were announced and work began to replace former Councilmember Teresa Mosqueda. who was elected to the King County Council in November with another two years in her term in Seattle office. Tuesday was Mosqueda’s final day on the City Council. 

District 2 Councilmember Tammy Morales, who represents southeast Seattle, and District 6 Councilmember Dan Strauss, who represents northwest Seattle, were sworn in for their second four-year terms Tuesday afternoon. 

Morales said she wants to continue working on equitable community development, police and public safety alternatives, and safety for people walking and rolling. Strauss said he wants to continue prioritizing public safety, homelessness and housing affordability. 

Morales will lead the Council’s Land Use Committee for the next four years. Strauss will run the Finance, Native Communities and Tribal Committee. As the finance chair, Strauss will lead the Council’s work on the city budget. 

With one full term each under their belts, Morales and Strauss are the most senior members of the new City Council. Citywide Councilmember Sara Nelson, who’s halfway through her first four years in office, is the next most senior member. Nelson will chair the Governance, Accountability, and Economic Development Committee. 

In a short speech Tuesday, Nelson emphasized her desire for the new council to work collaboratively and to focus on good governance. 

“We have one job: that is to work together with the Harrell administration … and to work together to do the most good for the greatest number of people,” said Nelson. “What really matters is how we do it. … We need to take the time to get things right and listen to constituents on all sides of the issues.” 

Councilmember Sara Nelson, center, is recognized as Council president while standing next to Councilmembers Tammy Morales and Maritza Rivera during the Seattle City Council’s first meeting of the year at City Hall on Jan. 2, 2024. (David Ryder for Crosscut)

A largely inexperienced crop of new councilmembers will fill out the remainder of the Council.

Rob Saka, an Air Force veteran and former lawyer for the tech giant Meta, is representing West Seattle’s District 1. He will lead the Transportation Committee. Saka said as a councilmember he wants to focus on public safety, homelessness and affordable housing as well as basics like filling potholes. “I want to become the king of potholes,” Saka said on Tuesday. 

Joy Hollingsworth, who previously worked on food insecurity for Northwest Harvest and helped run her family’s cannabis business, is representing District 3, which includes Capitol Hill and Madison Valley. She will run the Parks, Public Utilities and Technology Committee. She wants Seattle to get back to the basics. Citing a former basketball coach of hers, Hollingsworth said, “If you don’t know the fundamentals, you can’t play the game. That’s where we’re at with our city right now. We need functionality, not politics.” 

Maritza Rivera, the former deputy director of Seattle’s Office of Arts and Culture, is representing northeast Seattle’s District 4. She will chair the Libraries, Education and Neighborhoods Committee. Though this is her first elected position, Rivera worked in City Hall for former City Councilmember Tom Rasmussen earlier in her career. Like many of her new colleagues, she emphasized a desire to improve public safety and focus on constituent services.  

Cathy Moore, a former King County Superior Court judge, is representing north Seattle’s District 5. She will lead the Housing and Human Services Committee. Like Rivera, she brings some city hall experience to her new role. Moore worked as an interim legislative aide for former Councilmember Richard Conlin in 2011 and served as the Seattle City Council’s interim city clerk in 2009 and 2010. Moore said she heard time and again on the campaign trail that Seattleites are exhausted by the pandemic’s fallout and by the drug crisis, homelessness and crime. and wants the new Council to be a lifeline out of the “bewildering and battering storm.” 

Bob Kettle, a former Naval Officer and Queen Anne Community Council member, is representing District 7, which includes Downtown, Queen Anne and part of Magnolia. He will lead the Public Safety Committee. Kettle reiterated his desire to work on public safety, public health and homelessness, three pillars he said are critical to “further the viability of our Downtown neighborhood, transportation system and post-pandemic recovery.” 

All five new councilmembers campaigned on promises to improve public safety, hire more police officers, and find fat to trim in the city budget rather than raising taxes to address the more than $200 million projected general fund shortfall next year.

That platform garnered the support of Mayor Bruce Harrell who endorsed Saka, Hollingsworth, Rivera and Moore in the general election. In a show of political alliance, Harrell invited the five new members to City Hall in December for a joint press event.

With Mosqueda’s departure Wednesday for her new role as a King County Council member, Seattle’s City Council has 20 days to appoint a replacement. That appointee will serve for the majority of this year. Seattle voters will elect someone for citywide District 8 position in the November 2024 elections to serve the remainder of Mosqueda’s term, which ends Dec. 31, 2025.

The appointee to Mosqueda’s seat will lead the Sustainability, City Light, and Arts and Culture Committee. 

The City Council will accept applications for the appointed role from 8 a.m. on Jan. 3 through 5 p.m. on Jan. 9. At a minimum, applicants must be a citizen of the United States, a qualified elector of the State of Washington and a registered voter of the City of Seattle at least 120 days prior to filing the declaration of candidacy.

The Council anticipates appointing the new member at a special meeting on Jan. 22.

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