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Meet Burien's first Latino mayor, newly elected Jimmy Matta

Burien Mayor Jimmy Matta on election night 2017, when he first was elected to the Burien City Council.
KUOW Photo/Liz Jones
Burien Mayor Jimmy Matta on election night 2017, when he first was elected to City Council.

The new mayor of Burien is a former farm-worker and labor organizer and will be the city's first Latino mayor. He was elevated to mayor by his City Council colleagues on Monday.

He won in a 4-1 vote (with two council members abstaining).

Matta was just recently elected to public office for the first time. Burien voters elected him to the Burien City Council in November, in a close race that became charged over the topics of immigration and crime.

As mayor, he said he wants to work on solutions in those areas, but more broadly he wants to build community relations.

Matta: "Today Burien can celebrate having a mayor that's not only Latino, but that can make sure that he can bridge different communities and bring them together."

Matta calls himself a consensus builder, and said he wants to bridge the relationship between the broader Burien community and the city's Spanish speaking and immigrant communities.

Matta, an experienced union leader, said he wants to work together with people who didn't vote for him. He said he has already received calls from some of his opponents wanting to share their views.

Matta: "At the end of the day our children go to the same school, regardless of what you believe or where you stand politically, if your child was hurt we'd all cry the same. We want to make sure that the community [is] inclusive and open to everybody."

Matta grew up working on a farm in Central Washington. He said he's very humbled this week.

Matta: "I have felt that it would be very difficult to get anywhere because we were farm-workers and we were going to school and learning the language. I remember seeing elected officials and saying, 'Man it would be so beautiful to be like them.' And so over the years I just worked hard and [did] not let negative people drive my feelings and emotions."

Matta takes over after a year of controversy in Burien surrounding its sanctuary city policy, which remains in place.

He said his priority is to make Burien a business friendly city and a place that's family centered.