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For the first time ever, women will make up a majority of Tacoma’s City Council

UPDATED: Wed., Jan. 5, 2022

By Allison Needles Tacoma News Tribune

History was made Tuesday at a swearing in ceremony for new and returning members Tacoma City Council members.

After winning their respective seats in the November 2021 election, Sarah Rumbaugh, representing District 2, Joe Bushnell, representing District 5, and Kiara Daniels, representing Tacoma at-large took the oath to serve on City Council.

Returning City Council members Catherine Ushka, District 4, and Mayor Victoria Woodards also were sworn in. Each has a four-year term.

With the new members, the city’s nine-member Council now has a majority of women for the first time: Woodards, Rumbaugh, Ushka, Daniels and Kristina Walker.

“Today, after everyone is sworn in, it is my understanding that we will have a female majority on the City Council for the first time in the history of Tacoma — and that is something to celebrate,” Woodards said.

The Council also has the highest number of members identifying as Black presiding on Council: Woodards, Daniels and Keith Blocker.

In 2016, there was a period of time where Blocker, Woodards and Marilyn Strickland, who was Tacoma’s first Korean and African American mayor at the time, served together, according to city records. In 2017, Woodards stepped down to run for mayor, which she was elected to in 2017.

Chanjolee Bushnell, who goes by Joe Bushnell, was sworn in for District 5, representing the South Tacoma and South End neighborhoods. Bushnell is the first Cambodian-American to serve on the City Council.

Bushnell, who spent about a decade in the Marine Corps, was sworn in by Commander Alan Mandigo, senior naval science instructor at Stadium High School, where Bushnell graduated.

“I do not do this alone. I do this with your backing and your support … I’m really looking forward to these next four years and into the future,” Bushnell said.

Daniels was sworn in to Position 6. She asked Woodards to swear her in. The two are the only African American women on the Council.

“Mayor, I asked you to do this for me because even before you knew me, before we knew each other, I was watching you, and I had been paying attention,” Daniels said. “I really wouldn’t be here if you hadn’t taken the steps a long time ago to do the same thing that I’m doing right now.”

Rumbaugh was sworn in for District 2, representing downtown Tacoma, the Port of Tacoma and Northeast Tacoma.

Rumbaugh’s husband, Pierce County Superior Court Judge Stanley Rumbaugh, swore her in, including a blessing from the Jewish faith.

“For every person out there right now who’s listening, I want you to know that I stand for fairness, equity and making sure that I represent the people who live in district two and the rest of the city of Tacoma,” Rumbaugh said.

Ushka was sworn in to continue serving Council District 4, representing parts of Tacoma’s Eastside and South End neighborhoods. Ushka was sworn in by Pierce County Council vice chair Marty Campbell.

“I have to say thank you to the voters for bringing me back for another four years of service. I’m excited for the four years ahead. It’s been a very difficult time for most of us. And so there’s nothing but hope to look forward to,” Ushka said. “We have opportunities to make progress in housing and economy and all the things that are important to us. And I promise that I will continue working with the diligence, hard work and passion that I always have.”

Woodards was sworn in as mayor by Strickland, who now serves in Congress. Strickland was the first African American woman to be elected mayor in Tacoma, and is also Korean American. During the ceremony, Woodards stood with her mother, Valerie Kalyan, and Genie Jefferson, wife of the late Harold Moss, whom Woodards saw as a father figure.

“What I commit to you is to continue to serve with that heart, to continue always to be open and available, but then to continue to work with my colleagues on some of the most pressing issues that face our community,” Woodards said. “I’m grateful to all of you and I look forward to four more years no matter how tough it may be. We will get through it and we will be stronger because we do it together.”

At Tuesday’s City Council meeting, the Council also voted Ushka to take over the role of deputy mayor from Blocker. The role of deputy mayor is voted on each year.

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