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Washington State Mayoral Leadership Series: Tacoma Mayor Victoria Woodards

Over the past year, a set of interlocking crises tested institutions at every level of government.

As a result of these crises, public officials have been called upon to at once reaffirm and reimagine. To reaffirm their commitment to building a strong safety net, upholding the rule of law, and addressing longstanding inequities. They’ve also been asked to reimagine public health systems, economic supply chains, and the very nature of public safety. What’s more, there are still 75 days left in the year.

Good governance at this juncture has required leadership from all public officials, but especially those closest to the people they serve. Mayors have been on the front lines, staring down one crisis layered atop several more.

In a new “Mayoral Leadership” series, the Wire will be asking mayors across Washington State to reflect on a year of crisis. While still very much ongoing, their stories will merit reflection for years to come.

In our first edition, we bring you a conversation with Tacoma Mayor Victoria Woodards.

Elected in 2017 after serving for seven years as an at-large member of the City Council, Woodards is the 39th mayor of Tacoma.

In this conversation, we discuss what the mayor wanted to accomplish in 2020 before COVID-19 struck, how the pandemic has affected civic life in the city, systemic racism, how the media impacts the policymaking process, and how the past year has changed her view of mayoral leadership.

As we look at systemic racism, there is some work [the Legislature] can do that won’t cost money, that won’t be on the back of balancing the budget around system racism and how we look at transformation in our state. When I talk about transformation, I know there’s been a lot of cries in the Black Lives Matter movement around systemic racism that relates to public safety and police. I want to be very clear, that is just but one system that needs to be transformed. My argument from the very beginning has been, I want to transform policing, but transforming policing is not enough. We need to look at every system that puts up barriers for people to reach their full potential…I want us to look at all systems. I don’t want to make a perfect criminal justice system, because that just means we put more people in it. I want us to fix all of the systems, all of the structures, that keep people from being able to reach their full potentials.”


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