Occupation: Mayor of Tacoma
Hometown: Tacoma, Washington
About Marilyn Strickland
Mayor Marilyn Strickland was sworn in as Mayor of Tacoma in January 2010, and previously served as a city council member. Born in Seoul, Strickland is a graduate of the University of Washington and holds a master’s degree in business administration from Clark-Atlanta University. She and her husband Patrick Erwin live in the downtown neighborhood.
Mayor Strickland's pro-growth agenda focuses on creating family-wage jobs by improving education and workforce training, promoting entrepreneurship, investing in transportation and attracting international investment. Prior to elected office, she worked in both the private and public sectors. Mayor Strickland’s regional and national board leadership includes Sound Transit, the U.S. Conference of Mayors and the Democratic Mayors Association. Strickland has appeared on Meet the Press, National Public Radio and is a trustee with the Urban Land Institute. She has been recognized by the National League of Cities Women in Municipal Government for outstanding local leadership and was recognized as the 2015 Washington Trade Hero by the Washington Council on International Trade.
HIGHER HEIGHTS: What inspired you to want to work in the political arena?
MAYOR STRICKLAND: I was encouraged to run for office by a good friend and mentor who also has been speaker of the house, a mayor, and most importantly, my middle school guidance counselor. When it came down to deciding whether or not to run for office, my inspiration can be distilled to three things:
1. I love my city and the beautifully diverse people who live here.
2. I have a responsibility to the pioneers who came before me and opened doors so I could be a viable candidate.
3. I work hard to represent all people with a variety of interests but I especially want to improve life for African-Americans and other communities of color.
HIGHER HEIGHTS: What advice do you have for Black women that want to spark change?
MAYOR STRICKLAND: Don't wait for permission to lead. The political, social and economic systems in which we operate don't always welcome us into positions of authority. Whatever your cause, build a diverse coalition of support, have a clearly defined objective and stay on message.
HIGHER HEIGHTS: What do you feel is the single most pressing issue facing Black women today and why?
MAYOR STRICKLAND: Financial empowerment and security. How do we remove barriers that keep us from our full earning potential? I worry about the far reaching impact of this on our communities and that we are inadvertently creating a generation of women who will live in extreme poverty as elders because of insufficient retirement income or savings.
HIGHER HEIGHTS: Tell us about a woman mentor that has helped you on your journey?
MAYOR STRICKLAND: My mother is the strongest, fierce and resilient person I know. She keeps me grounded, gives me perspective and reminds me that progress requires sacrifice.