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Juarez elected first Indigenous Seattle City Council head

January 5, 2022 GMT

SEATTLE (AP) — Council member Debora Juarez has been elected president of the Seattle City Council, making her the first Indigenous president in the council’s history.

The nine-person council voted unanimously during its first meeting of 2022 to elect Juarez, a member of the Blackfeet Nation, The Seattle Times reported.

Council member Lisa Herbold, who was also vying for the position, co-nominated Juarez as president, “stepping aside” to support Juarez as council president for 2022 and 2023.

“When discussing the council presidency with council member Juarez, she told me about the Blackfoot Confederacy model of kinship, and acknowledgment of our humanity and the source of our power to thrive together,” Herbold said.

Juarez, who was first elected to the council in 2015, thanked the council for its support, praising Herbold for being “gracious and kind.”

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Juarez declined after the meeting to tell the newspaper to say how she and Herbold came together, only saying that it was a “collaborative” decision.

As president, Juarez says she will work to make the council more team-driven.

“You know, I’m more of a thinker and collaborator, and I’m not interested in the hierarchy,” Juarez said. “At the end of the day, the only thing government is supposed to do is to make people’s lives better.”

In her time on council, Juarez has led the city’s efforts to address the Missing and Murdered Indigenous People epidemic and created the first-ever Indigenous Advisory Council.

As council president, she says she wants to continue those efforts by giving tribal governments due input.

New Seattle Mayor Bruce Harrell said in a statement Tuesday he worked closely with Juarez while he was on the council.

“I am ecstatic to work with her again as we urgently address issues of homelessness and public safety and strive for a united Seattle,” his statement said.

Harrell had campaigned on adding police rather than cutting funding while Juarez refused to join the council majority in 2020 that had committed to cutting the police budget by 50%.