Mayor Jenny Durkan

Mayor of Seattle, Washington

Jenny Durkan is the mayor of Seattle and has led the city’s response through the first two years of the COVID-19 pandemic. With a background as an attorney and a federal prosecutor, Durkan began her term as mayor of Seattle in 2017. COVID-19 arrived in her city just two years later, making Seattle the early epicenter of COVID-19 cases in the US. The city faced the first known outbreak in a nursing home in the US and it appears that the virus then spread onward to cause outbreaks in other states.

Amid great uncertainty, Durkan worked with scientists, city staff, state and federal governments, businesses, and colleagues abroad from the C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group to respond to the virus. She also received valuable policy advice from local scientists and associates of the Seattle Flu Study, who helped create a workaround for testing shortages in early 2020 and conduct early disease surveillance and outbreak modeling.

The city’s response has involved implementing social distancing strategies, creating widespread testing, acquiring personal protective equipment for medical workers, collecting and publicly sharing outbreak data, and vaccinating as many people as possible. Durkan has many lessons to share from her experience leading the city’s pandemic response, and her story serves as a case study on the particular role for city officials and mayors in addressing pandemics and outbreaks. 

Looking back at her experience, Durkan is proud of the collaborative relationships her city built to make it through the pandemic. As she stated, “Siloes will kill you every time. Turf will kill you every time. But having unified goals, objectives, and metrics, as well as willingness to really share information, I think, is the thing that will be critical for the next pandemic.”

Learn more about Jenny Durkan’s work: