“It’s all a blur now,” Ed Murray says of that chilly November evening when he became Seattle’s 53rd mayor.
“I heard some of my campaign staff in the kitchen yelling, and I knew I’d won – and next thing I knew the security detail arrived at my house. Then I remember later that night, me and Michael and a friend of ours from New York stayed up until 2 a.m., talking about the future.”
On a gloomy gray late December afternoon, Murray ruminates on what he’s been doing since he emerged victorious following a rigorous ten-month campaign. It is a conversation that takes place at his small office on the 27th floor of the Seattle Municipal Tower. This has been transition headquarters, a no-frills conference room, quiet as snow, with bare white walls and dark-paneled cubicles.
The election night champagne bottles hadn’t yet been tossed into the blue recycling bin before Murray plunged into forming a new city government. “We went right into the transition,” the 58-year-old son of steelyard worker begins. “Every night, I’ve been reading briefings from department heads, decision papers, and I’ve been spending a huge amount of time sorting through police and public safety issues, a huge amount of time.”
And if that doesn’t sound like fun, consider the books our new mayor has consumed. First, there was The Metropolitan Revolution by Bruce Katz, which, Murray enthusiastically explains, “is all about how cities are incubators for innovation as state and federal government becomes increasingly dysfunctional.” After finishing that potboiler, Murray inhaled Edward Gleaser’s The Triumph of the City, a 352-page tome that enumerates the many ways urban centers can spur innovation and encourage entrepreneurship. It’s a page-turner all right.
Currently sitting on his bed stand, alongside Doris Kearns Goodwin’s The Bully Pulpit,” is "If Mayors Ruled the World.” Murray says he can’t wait to dig into it, lured as he is by Benjamin Barber’s tantalizing premise: Mayors are the most effective and pragmatic of all political leaders because they have to get things done.
No, Murray concedes, he hasn’t seen a movie since the election – though he did manage to squeeze in time to view the season finale of Homeland – nor has he gone bird watching. Yes, our new man atop City Hall, who actually has a bird app on his smartphone that goes “tweet, tweet, tweet, is quite fond of communing with his fine feathered friends and laments he didn’t remember to take along his binoculars – the one that can correct for his slight hereditary tremor – during his Thanksgiving trek to Hawaii with new hubby Michael Shiosaki.
Aside from the occasional long walk with his dog, a King Charles spaniel named Rory, it has been all work and no play for Edward Bernard Patrick Murray, the full Irish name he intends to use during the swearing-in ceremony at his Capitol Hill abode.
The only respite, of course, was his six-day stay at Poipu Beach in Kauai. “But really, I couldn’t wait to get back. I’m having more fun than I’ve ever had in my life,” says Murray. “Right now, I’m working my through lunches with council members.”
Murray confides that he slept like a baby during the campaign. “But since the election, I wake up a lot, thinking about issues, about people I need to talk to, people who I haven’t gotten back to that helped me.”
One of the post-election high notes came December 13 when Murray was in Washington. D.C., attending a conference for new mayors at the White House. Pretty heady stuff, talking urban issues with the President and rubbing elbows with the likes of New York City’s Bill de Blasio and Los Angeles’ Eric Garcetti, and then spending some private time with Obama and Vice President Biden in the Oval Office.
But the real thrill came later that evening at the White House Christmas party. “After the party,” Murray recounts, his blue eyes brightening, “the President came over and said, ‘Michelle, I’d like to you to meet the new mayor of Seattle’s husband.’ With a wide smile, Murray adds, “I kidded Michael that this year I became mayor, and we got married and that the biggest highlight of the year, was meeting Michelle.”
Murray hasn’t decided on all the furnishing and knick-knacks he’ll bring to the mayor’s office. There’s a few things, though, he says he’s set on. “I have three framed photographs that I’m going to put up. One of them is Cal Anderson, one of John and Robert Kennedy together at a Senate hearing, and the other of Martin Luther King.”
Also decorating his seventh-floor office will be his Irish blackthorn walking stick, a replica of the one presented to President Kennedy during his visit to Ireland in 1963 – that, and a small crystal boat from Galway.
To our new mayor, let us toast:
May you have warm words on a cold evening, a full moon on a dark night, and a smooth road all the way to your door.
And oh yes, may you see a good movie and read a fun book.