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Seattle City Council

The Seattle City Council is the legislative body of the city of Seattle, Washington. The Council consists of nine members serving four-year terms, seven of which are elected by electoral districts and two of which are elected in citywide at-large positions; all elections are non-partisan. It has the sole responsibility of approving the city's budget, and develops laws and policies intended to promote the health and safety of Seattle's residents. The Council passes all legislation related to the city's police, firefighting, parks, libraries, and electricity, water supply, solid waste, and drainage utilities.

Seattle City Council
City Council
Seattle City Council Logo.png
Seattle City Council District map.png Map of the seven districts effective January 2016
President of the Council
Seattle City Council makeup.svg
Political groups
     Democratic (8)
      Socialist Alternative (1)
Electoral districts with four-year terms
Last election
November 3, 2015
Meeting place
Seattle City Hall 001.jpg
Seattle City Hall
600 Fourth Avenue, Second floor
Seattle, Washington 98104




Election of city council members occur on odd-numbered years, with at-large seats staggered from district seats. All council members' terms begin January 1. The council positions are officially non-partisan, and the ballot gives no party designations. Party identification is based on candidates' voluntary self-identification. Like other elections in Washington, all candidates run together in the primary with the top two progressing to the general election.

Candidates may participate in Seattle's unique Democracy voucher program, which provides residents with vouchers to give candidates for public campaign funding.


Results of the 2015 City Council election. Size of circle shows total votes cast in each District or Position. Names and percentages given for top two candidates, and incumbent, in each race.[1]

In 2013, a voter-initiative was passed calling for the nine citywide-elected Seattle City Council seats to be divided into seven neighborhood district elected positions and two citywide, at-large seats.[2] The first primary based on this system was held August 4, 2015 and the first city council election based on districts was held on November 3, 2015.[3]

The approximate neighborhood and citywide positions are as follows. Some neighborhoods overlap more than one district, indicated with an asterisk*.[4]

Position District Neighborhoods
1 1 West Seattle, Delridge, South Park, Harbor Island, Industrial District*
2 2 Beacon Hill*, Central District*, Downtown*, Rainier Valley*, Georgetown, Seward Park, Industrial District*
3 3 Beacon Hill*, Capitol Hill*, Cascade*, Central District*, First Hill*, Montlake, Rainier Valley*
4 4 Bryant, Cascade*, Fremont, Laurelhurst, Maple Leaf*, Ravenna, Roosevelt, Sand Point, University District, View Ridge, Wallingford*, Wedgwood*
5 5 Bitter Lake, Broadview, Greenwood*, Haller Lake, Lake City, Maple Leaf*, North Beach/Blue Ridge*, Northgate, Roosevelt*, View Ridge, Wedgwood*
6 6 Ballard, Crown Hill, Fremont*, Green Lake*, Greenwood*, North Beach/Blue Ridge*, Phinney Ridge, Wallingford*
7 7 Belltown, Capitol Hill*, Cascade*, Downtown*, First Hill*, Interbay, Magnolia, South Lake Union, Queen Anne
8 At-large position, citywide
9 At-large position, citywide


Seattle was first incorporated as a town by an act of the Territorial Legislature on January 14, 1865. The town charter established a five-member board of trustees to govern Seattle, which appointed citizens to other positions.[5] The act was repealed January 18, 1867, after most of the town's leading citizens petitioned for its dissolution. Seattle was again incorporated, this time as a City, on December 2, 1869. The new unicameral legislature, known as the Common Council, was elected at-large to one year terms.[6] At-large election was replaced in 1884 by a system of 14 wards and four members elected at-large, all elected to two-year terms.[7]

The Home Rule Charter, adopted in 1890, reorganized the city council into a bicameral legislature, with a nine-member Board of Alderman and a sixteen-member House of Delegates.[8]

According to the Seattle City Clerk's website, "In 2013, Seattle voters passed a measure amending our city's charter to establish City Council districts. In 2015, voters elected seven out of the nine City Council members by district. The remaining two positions will be elected "at-large" (citywide) in positions 8 and 9."[9]


  • 1869–1883 – Seven at-large Council members elected for one-year terms.
  • 1884 – Nine Council members elected: three from each of the three wards, elected to two-year terms.
  • 1886 – One ward added, Council reduced to eight members: two elected from each ward for two-years terms.
  • 1890 – The Home Rule Charter established eight wards and bicameral legislature. A Board of Delegates composed of nine at-large members was elected for four-year terms. House of Delegates had 16 members – Two from each ward, elected for two-year terms.
  • 1892 – One ward added to make nine. Both houses to have nine members – all elected from wards.
  • 1896 – New Home Rule Charter reestablished unicameral legislature with nine wards. One Council member elected from each ward for two years and four elected at large for four-year terms.
  • 1905 – Two wards added to make 11. One Council member from each with four at-large – 15 council members total.
  • 1907 – The Charter was amended twice during the year, the first time adding two more wards, increasing the size of Council to 17. Later, another ward was added (to make 14), increasing Council to 18 members.
  • 1910 – The Charter was amended to abolish wards, reduce Council to nine at-large positions elected to three-year terms. This took effect in 1911 and remained constant until 1946. The 1910 Charter amendments also made the elections non-partisan. Prior to that candidates for Council (and other City offices) ran on party tickets.
  • 1946 – The new Charter created the four-year term.[10]
  • 2013 – City voters pass measure changing councilmember elections to a mostly-district-based system.
  • 2015 – First councilmember elections to be held under new district-based system.


The Council chamber

As of September 28, 2010, Councilmembers Sally Bagshaw, Richard Conlin, Nick Licata and Mike O'Brien earn $117,533.52 annually. Councilmembers who were re-elected in 2011, Tim Burgess, Sally J. Clark, Jean Godden, Bruce Harrell, and Tom Rasmussen, will earn an annual salary of $119,976.48, effective January 1, 2012. Their salary will remain at this level through December 31, 2015.

As of January 2017, salaries of Councilmembers are authorized to be $59.08 per hour (councilmembers are paid monthly salaries, however the published compensation plan are presented as hourly rates). This is equivalent to an annualized pay of $123,359.04[11]

As of April 2018, salaries of Councilmembers are authorized to be $62.11 per hour, an increase of 5% from 2017. This is equivalent to an annualized pay of $129,685.68.[12]

Among the nation's 40 largest cities, only Los Angeles pays its council more — $149,000, according to a survey by The Seattle Times. Seattle ranks 23rd in population, according to the Census Bureau.[13]

Council PresidentEdit

The Seattle City Council picks among its peers a Council President to serve a two-year term, beginning January 1 of the year following an election. The Council President serves as the official head of the City's legislative department. In addition, they are tasked with:

  • Establishing of committees and appointment of committee chairs and members.
  • Presiding over meetings of the full council.
  • Assuming the duties and responsibilities of Mayor if the Mayor is absent or incapacitated.

Notable past council membersEdit

  • Charlie Chong, council member 1995–1997, West Seattle populist
  • Arthur A. Denny, council member 1877–1879, leader of the Seattle pioneers known as the Denny Party
  • Bailey Gatzert, council member 1872–1873 and 1877–1878, in between was elected the city's first (and, as of 2017, only) Jewish mayor
  • Hiram Gill, council member 1898–1902, 1904–1910, then mayor. Famous as an "Open Town" advocate, he later allied with "Closed Town" reformers.
  • Jean Godden, council member 2003–2015, newspaper columnist before her time on the council
  • Bertha Knight Landes, council member 1922–1926, then elected the city's first female mayor
  • David Levine, council member 1931–1962
  • Wing Luke, council member 1962–1965, first Asian American elected official in Washington State
  • John Miller, council member 1972–1979, later a Republican congressman
  • A. W. Piper, pioneer, baker, socialist member 1877–1879. Eponym of Pipers Creek and Piper Orchard
  • Norm Rice, council member 1978–1989, then elected the city's first (and, as of 2017, only) African American mayor
  • Peter Steinbrueck, council member 1997–2007, architect
  • Jeanette Williams, council member 1969–1989
  • Henry Yesler, council member 1884–1885, Seattle pioneer, sawmill-owner, and twice mayor


  1. ^ November 3 General Election results, King County Elections, November 24, 2015
  2. ^ "SEEC Law & Filer Info" -
  3. ^ "Current and Prior Election Information 1998 - present" - King County Elections -
  4. ^ "Seattle City Council Districts - City Clerk -" -
  5. ^ Lange, Greg; Tate, Cassandra (November 4, 1998). "Legislature incorporates the Town of Seattle for the first time on January 14, 1865". HistoryLink. Retrieved December 5, 2017.
  6. ^ "1869-1882: The Common Council under the First City Charter". Seattle Municipal Archives. Retrieved December 5, 2017.
  7. ^ "1884-1890: Ward System Established". Seattle Municipal Archives. Retrieved December 5, 2017.
  8. ^ Charter of The City of Seattle, Commonly Known as The Freeholders' Charter. Seattle: The Northwestern Printing Company. October 1, 1890. p. 9. OCLC 38579564. Retrieved December 5, 2017 – via Google Books.
  9. ^ Seattle City Council Districts, Seattle Office of the City Clerk. Accessed online January 24, 2015.
  10. ^ Seattle City Council Members, 1869–Present Chronological Listing, Seattle City Archives. Accessed online February 1, 2011.
  11. ^ >"2017 Salary Schedule and Compensation Plan" - Seattle Department of Human Resources -
  12. ^ >"2018 Salary Schedule and Compensation Plan" - Seattle Department of Human Resources -
  13. ^

External linksEdit


  • Hugh DeLacy Papers. 1938–1985. 4.87 cubic feet (11 boxes, 1 map tube, 1 package). Contains records from DeLacy's service with the Seattle City Council from 1938–1939.
  • Frederick G. Hamley Papers. 1933–1963. 6.83 cubic feet. Contains records from Hamley's service with the Seattle City Council from 1935–1936.
  • Austin E. Griffiths Papers. 1891–1952. 11.73 cubic feet (25 boxes). Contains records from Griffiths' career as Settle city councilman from 1910–1913.