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State of the City

Thank you for joining me as we reflect on the past year and discuss the exciting developments that lie ahead for our beloved city. Tonight, we’ll talk about growth in the city and the planning involved. We’ll talk about safety, and how it’s a citywide priority managed by dedicated staff. We’ll talk about vibrancy, and then exciting new additions that make Auburn sparkle a little brighter. I personally love sparkle! And we’ll talk about home – about you, about your neighbors. About what makes Auburn - Auburn.

We’ll begin with a land acknowledgement.

On behalf of the City of Auburn and myself, it’s an honor to use and share this space alongside tribal members of our community who have been incredibly gracious.

The City of Auburn acknowledges that we are on the ancestral and contemporary lands of the Muckleshoot Indian Tribe. They have stewarded the land since time immemorial. The City of Auburn recognizes the generational harm done to the Muckleshoot people on the Salish lands through colonization and commit to ensuring that our governmental partnerships recognize the continued vibrancy of their culture and honor their sovereignty.

This acknowledgement signifies our great respect and admiration for the First Peoples that occupied this land before us and our unwavering desire to continue our collective paths together.

Before we begin tonight, I’d like to start with a bit of gratitude and recognition.

To your councilmembers: Deputy Mayor Larry Brown, thank you for filling that leadership role with confidence and grace and a desire to collaborate for the betterment of our city. To our most tenured councilmember Yolanda Trout-Manuel and Kate Baldwin, who in her first term became one of the senior councilmembers, thank you for your continued dedication, partnership and leadership. And to our four newest councilmembers: Cheryl Rakes, who was appointed to fill a vacancy left by Chris Stearns just a little over a year ago, and to those who just took office in January, Hanan Amer, Clinton Taylor and Tracy Taylor, I say “welcome” and I’m excited for the work we will get to accomplish TOGETHER.

Council, it’s an honor to serve Auburn alongside you.

I would also like to acknowledge our area electeds, including mayors and legislators, former councilmembers, current and former Junior City Council members, Auburn area school officials, and representatives from the Valley Regional Fire Authority – if you’re one of those, please stand!

Next, I’d like to thank and recognize our city staff. Our city staff and volunteers are the backbone of Auburn. Your hard work, dedication, and passion for our community do not go unnoticed. Together, we've achieved great things, and I look forward to our continued collaboration. There’s a specific team that I work with every day, and I’d like to introduce them to you. Our Director team. If I could ask you to stand. You’ll find their names on the screen behind me, and they and their teams do an amazing job of caring for our city.

And to Tamie Bothell for her vision and planning in making tonight’s event look and feel so special. I hope you’re all enjoying the delicious food and desserts selected for you tonight. We’re also celebrating her 18th anniversary as a cancer SURVIVOR!

I’d also like to give a special shout out to Melissa Bailey and Holly Ferry who keep our front office running while making it look so easy – I’ll share a secret with all of you - it’s not. 

Putting tonight’s presentation together was Jonathan, thank you for helping me put my words together daily – tonight included. That’s harder than you may think! Kevin and Chester, thank you for the outstanding artwork and graphics. Jason, thank you for the videos that you created for tonight that showcase our great city. The four of you do such an amazing job individually and collectively.

I would also like to extend my gratitude to our elected leaders at various levels of government throughout our county, region and state, and to our community partners. Your collaboration is vital and as important as ever to address the growing needs of our residents and enhance the quality of life not only in Auburn, but the entire Puget Sound region.

And finally, I’d like to thank my family. My brother Gary, who I have looked up to and loved my entire life. He’s the best big brother! He was such an amazing caregiver for our beautiful mother, who we lost late last year. I can never repay that gift.

My sister-in-law Chris, thank you for your support and love.

My husband Kemon – probably the most understanding and patient man I know. He laughs when I say “I’ll be home early tonight to make dinner” knowing that my job doesn’t usually allow for that – at least not the “early” part. Honey, here’s to all those 9:00pm dinners.

And our daughter Lucky, who owns our hearts. She’s been by my side throughout this rollercoaster called a “political life”. She understands the privilege of serving and giving back, and she’s grown into this beautiful soul and independent, compassionate, brilliant mind.

I love you all so much.

I have been blessed to have many friends in my life, and many of them are here tonight and some watching online. Thank you for understanding the delayed responses, rescheduled outings and for not talking politics every single time we’re together! You allow me to be me, and I love you. Kathie, thank you for telling me that you enjoy hearing about what has happened in the city, but that you’d love to hear more about our plans for the future. Tonight’s topics are because of you!

So, Let’s Begin With Growth

I love Auburn! That may sound a little corny to you to have so much love for a city, but it’s true. It’s why I’ve lived here most of my life. We even dedicated one of our previous State of the City addresses to just that -- “How to love your city”. Word is out, apparently, because over the years, more and more people have moved here, ready to call this great city home.

My family began calling Auburn home in 1968, when the population was under 20,000. Since the year 2000, our population has more than doubled – we've hit 90,000. And since 2000, our city planners have permitted 4,500 single family residential homes, and over 5,200 multi-family homes. That’s almost 10,000 units of housing! A portion of that growth includes 800 new homes in our downtown core, part of an effort to help concentrate growth near transit, and as a means of creating more vibrancy downtown.

Since 2020 alone, we’ve grown by more than 2,500 residents, and if models hold, we’re projected to be at 100,000 by 2029. Can you believe that “little old Auburn” will be over 100,000 by the end of this decade?? Many believe that while Auburn is no longer a small city, it still has a small town feel to it. I agree, and I think in part that’s because we have a Main Street, but also because we have people who care – that's the charm.

All that growth means the need for proper planning. Which is why The City of Auburn is well underway updating the Comprehensive Plan – Imagine Auburn – to accommodate growth by 2044, in line with state requirements. Those include requirements to plan for 12,000 new housing units and 20,000 new jobs. This plan, due by the end of this year, will also include an update to the Auburn Downtown Plan. You may be thinking that 2044 seems like a long time in the future, but it’s really not, and we know how quickly time flies.

Building on the 2015 comp plan, this update will set a vision for the next twenty years, addressing community desires as well as growth mandates from various agencies. We're eager to engage the public, sharing draft plans that address legislative requirements like Middle Housing, Affordable Housing, and infrastructure improvements for Transportation and Utility systems. So many mandates. I’m impressed by how our team can keep track of and incorporate all the changes to our plans.

A large part of that planning process includes downtown Auburn, an area we hear about often. Residents across the city are wondering – what is the plan for downtown? What will it look like in 5 years, let alone 20? I don’t think there’s a person in our city who doesn’t’ share your interest and concern about growth in this area, and in some cases, the perceived lack thereof.

But I can assure you, things are happening.

Over the next few years, the City will replace downtown infrastructure such as utilities, sewer, water, traffic signals, and plaza areas. Things like:

  • Removing overhead and underground utilities in the alley between East Main Street and 1st Street NE, promoting aesthetic improvement and safety.
  • Revitalizing Auburn Ave from East Main Street to the alley north of Main Street, including a new sewer line and upgraded street lighting.
  • Upgrading the East Main Street and Auburn Ave intersection with a new traffic signal, ADA-compliant ramps, and utility replacements.
  • Reconstructing sidewalks on East Main Street from Auburn Ave to B Street Plaza, improving pedestrian accessibility and infrastructure.
  • Transforming B Street Plaza with a new sewer line, enhanced landscaping, and improved lighting for a vibrant community space.

Additionally, decorative street lighting will be added on Main Street. Design work is beginning - with funding secured. Expect construction to begin by year-end, continuing into 2025.

Perhaps the biggest portion of this downtown plan is – and you may have guessed it – the Auburn Avenue Theater. I know it’s been a long time coming and I thank you for being patient with us. It’s bittersweet for me to announce that later this spring or early summer, the old theater building will be demolished to make way for something new. For those of you like me who remember watching movies every Saturday morning at the Auburn Ave, it will be sad to see it come down, but we’ll have the memories of some great times together. Anyone else remember Mr. Mullendore coming out to the stage to introduce movies AND remind us of the proper behavior while watching? And there will be the opportunity to make new memories at the new facility!

And so, what happens once the dust settles? A design phase is the immediate next step, and from there, an analysis to see how much the project will cost.

While I can’t give a specific date since there’s so much still unknown, I can say confidently that we will bring theater and performing arts back to downtown soon.

And what we’ve seen already from businesses in our downtown core and elsewhere gives me hope. Let’s touch on a few.

SeaAxe on Main Street, which opened a little over two years ago, is thriving and is already a major entertainment destination in our downtown core. How many of you have visited? I have, and I can tell you there’s something very freeing about throwing that axe! You’ve got to try it!

PNW Coffee at the transit center, which went under new ownership last year, is serving up some of the city’s best coffee – and homemade cookies. Seriously, you have to taste them.

Downtown Auburn recently welcomed a new tenant as well, White Willow Company, in the Arcade building near Safeway. You won’t find fresher flowers anywhere. And who doesn’t want holiday decorations for under $10? I know I do, because I bought some cute little gnomes for Valentine’s Day! It’s a welcome addition to our downtown.

At the Outlet Collection Seattle, a major economic force in our region, I’m excited to say that all storefronts are now leased and occupied. Tenants include Best Buy, which replaced Bed, Bath and Beyond, and Fieldhouse USA, a popular destination for sports enthusiasts and families, attracting thousands annually for tournaments and fitness activities. If you haven’t been to see Fieldhouse, I encourage you to go – you’ll be amazed.

The Outlet Collection is also home to local vendors dedicated to investing in our city. Stores like “Unlock the Con”, which brings artists, voice actors and cosplayers to our region to meet fans one on one. Or non-profits like “Arts of Love”, a family-owned business that brings community together through art.

Our partnership with Pacific Raceways also continues to be a source of pride for Auburn. The economic and recreational benefits are immense. This was evident at the NHRA Northwest Nationals event this past summer, which brought tens of thousands of race fans to the Auburn area. I grew up out at that track – watching my brother Gary racing, and then of course, little sister had to join in. So much fun and family time spent at that track. A huge thank you to my friend Jason Fiorito and his family for maintaining and growing the entertainment and enthusiasm for the sport. I’m excited to see what your future holds.

And nothing says growth quite like the sudden influx of almost 400 households. Earlier this year, Auburn welcomed the Bridges neighborhood, formerly part of Kent, as our newest addition to Lea Hill. You’ve had an Auburn address and your kids have attended Auburn schools, but you were legally Kent. We are thrilled to have you as part of our city now! Welcome Home! I want to thank Kent Mayor Dana Ralph and her team who worked with us to make this a reality. We’ve talked about this annexation for so many years, and I’m so proud to say that we have finally accomplished it.

Growth is a healthy part of any city when done right. Let’s take a look.


We’ve Reviewed Growth, So Let’s Talk About Safety

Ensuring the safety of our community is my top priority. I'm pleased to report positive developments in our police department, including new hires and the implementation of the Officer Wellness Program. Our emphasis areas are proving effective, and recent changes in state drug legislation provide us with additional tools to address related issues.

During and following the COVID-19 pandemic, police departments nationwide faced a surge in resignations and transfers, leaving communities in need. Last year, I outlined staffing priorities aimed at restoring pre-COVID levels for resident safety. Though we're not fully there, significant progress has been made. Since 2020, our department has hired 10 Records Specialists, 2 Evidence Techs, an Animal Control Officer, a Public Information Officer, an Administrative Specialist, a Police Wellness Program Designer, and 55 officers. Of those officers, 19 of them are laterals – meaning they are bringing prior experience from other agencies, and the other 36 are entry level. I wish I could say that all of those were additional positions, but they’re not. Most of those were simply replacing the vacancies. Our upcoming biennial budget for 2025-2026 should help address the need for additional officers.

As part of our efforts to retain qualified officers within the Auburn Police Department, we've implemented the Officer Wellness Program. This new initiative, led by Police Wellness Program Designer Angel Ogando, aims to prioritize the well-being of our officers and their families.

Using cutting-edge techniques, research and good old fashioned common sense, Angel has created a new program at the Auburn Police Department, that prioritizes not only the physical health of our staff, but their mental health as well. Why? Because the overall wellness data isn’t great. While these figures are from a 2013 study, the data show that:

  • Officers may experience up to 3-5 critical incidents in a given shift – while the rest of us perhaps experience 3-5 in a lifetime
  • The average life expectancy for officers is 57 – almost 20 years less than the rest of us
  • The average age of a first heart attack for police officers is 46
  • And according to Richard R. Johnson, Ph.D. in November 2019, the Life expectancy at retirement is only about 6 years

Safeguarding our officers should be priority, and it’s heartening to see departments across the region embrace the philosophies ours is spearheading. Angel is on the forefront of a truly collaborative effort.

Now, that’s all to say, we’re not without our struggles. I think if you asked the person seated next to you, they’d tell you, honestly, that the world just doesn’t seem OK right now. Certain types of crimes are up, people don’t feel safe walking home at night, and increasingly, we’ve become more scared of each other. This is not a unique problem to the Puget Sound or to Auburn - despite what you might read on social media.

I do understand that feeling and I agree – it’s unacceptable. We - as a society - need to do more. In Auburn, we need to do more. And we will continue to do more to address this problem.

Just last month, our officers arrested four juveniles in a case all too common in our area. The teens were suspected of robbing two separate 7-Eleven convenience stores in Des Moines and Tukwila, robberies that involved a weapon and a stolen vehicle. Later that day, an Auburn police officers drove by a 7-Eleven in Auburn and spotted that same vehicle. After a short pursuit and then a chase on foot, our officers successfully arrested all four juveniles and recovered several cash tills.

I know it’s frustrating for most, if not all of us to see this same story play out again, and again, and again. A crime happens, an arrest is made, the suspect is released, and it repeats.

I hear you when you say it’s not enough – that what we’re doing isn’t enough, especially when it comes to crimes that are handled at higher levels of the judicial system, like felonies. That’s why I’ve been vocal with county and state lawmakers that laws created at their level need to work in our communities and address the challenges we are seeing locally. I will not give up on that fight – lives depend upon those changes!

Please join me in asking for those changes to be made to drug legislation and police pursuits at the state level. We need to see changes that will make a positive impact, as the tools available to our officers expand.

We’ve seen direct evidence of changes based on legislative action. Since your City Council expanded our stay out of drug areas, or SODA, and emphasis patrols began in earnest a year and a half ago, we’ve seen remarkable results. In partnership with our Anti-Homelessness team, we’ve contacted hundreds of individuals, referring them to services and long-term housing. We’ve since expanded the patrols that do include law enforcement - south to Howard Road as well as north towards Lowes. That also means there have been more arrests. Let me be clear, I do not believe that jail is the answer for everyone, but I do believe it must continue to be an option. At South Correctional Entity or SCORE, there are opportunities for those who are confined to receive services including drug treatment, housing assistance, and more. For some, it is the only answer that will keep them alive. I’ll share a little bit more about that in a few minutes.

Speaking of our Anti-Homelessness Team, it has grown. Just a little over a month ago we brought on another full-time outreach coordinator, making our total headcount three. They’re a small but mighty team. I never underestimate their work and dedication to our community.

In 2023, they successfully housed 95 people citywide, setting us apart by providing comprehensive support. While many housing solutions falter for various reasons, our focus is on those ready for stable housing, ensuring their needs are met every step of the way. Our success lies in prioritizing individuals who are genuinely committed to change, a cornerstone of our homelessness outreach approach.

Using funds from the American Rescue Plan Act or ARPA, our Anti-Homelessness team worked within the Clean and Sober Housing Program we designed, to help 30 individuals complete 30 days of inpatient treatment, and then facilitated their transition into housing. Additionally, as of November 2023, the Auburn Community Resource Center, which is undergoing expansion, has recorded a total of 1,835 visits. When you consider that the resource center is open on Thursdays for a few hours, that’s a pretty significant number.

In January, we celebrated the opening of Don’s Place in north Auburn, a building capable of safely housing over 100 participants through King County’s Health Through Housing initiative.

Alongside our partnership with King County, we’ve enhanced our Community Court program to include in-custody participants from SCORE. In the past six months, we’ve invited 20 to the program, and of those, 12 have graduated, four are actively participating, and two are currently in in-patient treatment or have just completed treatment.

Because of these positive results, the city is exploring expanding the court from half a day to a full day. The expansion will allow us to increase the number of defendants who are invited to participate, including those who are held in jail. That’s why I firmly believe that we must include jail as an option to save lives!

With more participants in community court, the city can continue its work to improve the lives of both the individuals in the program and the Auburn community as a whole.

Stories of success abound in Auburn, safety included. Let’s take a look.


Aaron, thank you so much for sharing your story with us. Aaron wanted to come in and talk to me in early January, and Debbie Christian and Kent encouraged me to take the meeting. Aaron had a list of people he wanted to apologize to for his time using fentanyl in our city, and the impacts that it had. His list included the entire city, and he wanted me to accept his apology on behalf of all of you. I wrote down two words Aaron said when he was visiting – “fearless and thorough” Aaron, I wish you every success! I know you’re going to make it!

Shifting a Little Bit... What’s a City Without Vibrancy?

Because Auburn, let’s face it, you’re beautiful. That’s right, I know, because the results just came back this afternoon. If you need me to write the mayor’s equivalent of a doctor’s note so you can take the day off tomorrow and explore all the beauty we have to offer, I’m happy to do so.

Jokes aside, it’s true. I know it because I’ve seen it.

This past year and before, our Parks, Arts and Recreation staff have been hard at work improving parks, trails, bike programs, the golf course, and more.

In 2023 they replaced the dilapidated playground structure at Frank Fulmer Park with a new and expanded playground. It’s the first of its kind installed in the state – and, it has an awesome slide I hear

At Auburndale Park on Lea Hill, the King County constructed 1980s-era playground was replaced with much needed new equipment with ADA-accessible features.

The pathway around the park was also replaced entirely, funded and constructed by Peak Machinery, a local Bobcat dealer. I can attest that you can even walk the trail in heels, although I don’t think I’d recommend it.

Last year, Cedar Lanes Bike Park was finished, featuring a dirt skills course through the forest. Phase 2, coming soon, will include a bicycle pump track and a new restroom/storage building. Additionally, the Pioneer Bike Club program, which has taught over 100 kids how to ride a bike, coincided with this project. This pilot program, in collaboration with Pioneer Elementary, ran for four weeks, and in 2024, we'll expand to serve more elementary schools and their eager students.

This past year, the City of Auburn Golf Course underwent turf improvements, aligning with the surge in golf popularity since the COVID-19 pandemic. Membership in both the men’s and ladies’ clubs totaled nearly 1,250, while the Couples League expanded for the third consecutive season, now boasting over 130 members. Golf course revenues for 2023 surpassed those of 2022, and we anticipate this trend to continue into 2024 – all predicated on the weather, of course.

And at the Mountainview Cemetery, we still have one of the best views of Auburn and the mountain. Our Parks department began the process of expanding the ForestWalk Cremation Garden, a project that will significantly expand the services offered by our cemetery.

For fitness enthusiasts and beyond, we have our city-ran programs, including summer camps, youth programs, and The REC, that maintain robust membership. Pickleball's popularity is surging – how many of you play Pickleball? Auburn Parks offered 21 programs in 2022, serving 210 participants, which expanded to 50 programs in 2023, engaging 740 players. Our pickleball staff are instrumental in growing the sport in Auburn, so stay tuned for more updates and announcements.

Last year, our parks maintenance crew, alongside hundreds of you during Clean Sweep in early April, helped plant over 1,200 annuals at various locations across the city, installed 230 yards of mulch at Les Gove, spread out 80 yards of wood chips at Auburndale Park, and another 70 yards of playchips at Brannan and Isaac Evans as well as other improvements. Our maintenance team hung 208 beautiful flower baskets in our downtown core,and installed the landscape for our new arts building -- more on that in a second.

And our Parks staff installed a Memorial Bench and tree for Julie Mehl at Les Gove Park. Julie was a beloved member of our team, who suddenly passed in early 2023. Julie and her family are in our thoughts each and every day. And this tree and bench are just a small reminder of the impact she had on Team Auburn.

Our city events saw robust attendance again this year. PetPalooza in May had an exceptional turnout, boosted by fantastic late spring weather. Events like KidsDay and the Halloween Harvest Festival and Les Gove Park Trunk-or-Treat also drew thousands of families including several City of Auburn departments.

And how could I not gush about the Postmark Center for the Arts – the city’s newest arts and culture center. Only a few months after opening, the center is already offering varied and relevant programming to all ages, including drop-in painting classes, ukulele lessons, poetry readings and more.

In addition to the beautiful welcome figure – a gift from the Muckleshoot Indian Tribe – Postmark is presenting -- until March 22 - the exhibit “Muckleshoot: Alive and Strong.” It’s a wonderful showcase displaying works of art from Muckleshoot Tribal members, featuring artists

Isiah (CORE-WIN) Corwin
Sam (OH-BRO-VAHK) Obrovac
Kim (SAL-AH-DIN) Saladin
Leila Sam
Tyson Simmons
Joyce Starr
and Tribal Council Vice Chair Donny Stevenson, and Keith Stevenson.

If you’ve not yet had a chance to visit, I recommend you do so soon. And don’t forget to check out the gift shop. There are unique and beautiful gifts for yourself or others in your life. There’s always something fun happening inside, led by a talented team of art lovers and art makers.

We’re lucky to live in a city so committed to the vibrancy and beauty of Auburn, led by a Parks department full of incredibly talented and dedicated staff. Let’s check in on how they’re doing.


So many amazing things to do and see.

And now...... it’s time to bring it Home.

According to author Melody Beattie “Going home means getting comfortable being who you are and who your soul really wants to be. There is no strain with that. The strain and tension come when we’re not being who our soul wants to be and we’re someplace where our soul doesn’t feel at home.”

Many people choose to move to Auburn because they're seeking a place to settle down. This means the desire for ample space, access to employment opportunities, and quality education. Fortunately, Auburn provides all three.

Auburn is and always has been a great place for students. I can say that confidently as someone who is a product of the Auburn School District, and as the mother of a beautiful and intelligent daughter who is, as well.

Our district is in wonderful hands with Dr. Alan Spicciati. Anyone who’s met him can tell you that he cares deeply about our education system and puts students first. The Auburn School Board members are equally dedicated to the care and needs of each student.

In September, I was honored to attend the community grand opening of Terminal Park Elementary, marking the completion of the final school rebuild in the 2016 bond package. Since the bond passed, the district has rebuilt six schools and constructed two new ones, all delivered on time and within budget. These remarkable buildings reflect the quality education our children deserve. The community support for the bond and the end results with the beautiful new buildings is a testament to our community coming together and prioritizing our youth and our future.

As Auburn's population continues to grow, so does the school district, now serving over 17,000 K-12 students and approximately 700 preschoolers. Our community attracts families from diverse backgrounds, including refugees from Afghanistan and Ukraine. To support newcomers with limited educational experiences, the Welcome and Newcomer Center was established last year, offering assistance in navigating the education system. I love how students and families are helped to feel a sense of welcome, belonging and success.

In response to community input, the district developed a new strategic plan, emphasizing financial literacy. Through a partnership with Junior Achievement, students in grades 4 or 5 and 7th graders receive financial literacy lessons in the classroom and engage in hands-on experiences at JA BizTown and JA Finance Park. This collaboration ensures students are equipped with essential life skills for their future.

I’m also happy to say that our City of Auburn City Hall in BizTown is looking a lot more like, well, Auburn. Earlier this year, our City of Staff completed a major overhaul – with a few nuts and bolts left to tighten – of the City Hall space, and the results are breathtaking. You may recognize this mural in particular – after all, you’ve been looking at it all night!

Auburn is also a great place for higher education. In late 2023, Green River College was honored as one of the top 150 community colleges in the nation by the Aspen Institute College Excellence Program. Selected from nearly 1,000 institutions, GRC was lauded for its high and improving levels of student success, particularly for Black and Hispanic students from lower-income backgrounds. I am a proud alum of Green River College, and I had the pleasure of interviewing GRC President Suzanne Johnson and Vice President for Advancement George Frasier on our "That’s So Auburn! Podcast," discussing the exciting developments at the college.

Please put it on your playlist …....once we’re done here tonight.

Alright, question for you: What’s a home without a strong foundation? For our Public Works team, the answer includes finding funding to build improvements to our community.

Using grant funds of nearly $3.5 million from the Transportation Improvement Board and federal grant funds, we're widening Auburn Way South to create two general purpose travel lanes in each direction and a two-way center turn lane. This expansion project includes constructing 10-foot-wide sidewalks on both sides, installing street lighting, enhancing transit stops, and upgrading utilities.

Improvements will also be underway at intersections along 3rd Street NE and 4th Street NE between Auburn Avenue and Auburn Way North. These enhancements will address non-motorized access and traffic flow by adding turn lanes, crosswalks, and adjusting signal operations. The project, partially funded by a grant award of over $2 million also from the Transportation Improvement Board and $1.6 million from Sound Transit, covers just over 57% of the costs.

At our Office of Equity, staff are hard at work following through on plans after the adoption of Resolution 5427 in 2019 that provided for diversity and inclusivity policies for the city. The goals are to eliminate systemic causes of disparities, racial or otherwise, in the City of Auburn, to promote inclusion and participation for every resident, and to reduce, and eventually eliminate, disparities of outcomes for our communities.

In support of our commitment to this critical work, which is a priority for our organization, I made the important decision to hire a dedicated staff to lead this endeavor.

In 2022, I created the Office of Equity and appointed a Chief Equity Officer to serve as the department director.  We also hired a Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Analyst to assist us in facilitating our work groups, design and support City programs such as Title VI and Language Access programs.  Effective January 1, of this year, Neighborhood Programs was transitioned into the Office of Equity and will expand into a broader scope encompassing community outreach and engagement activities.

This isn’t easy work, and it can bring with it a great deal of emotion, but it is the right thing to do for Auburn!

This year, Auburn is striving to become a designated Welcoming City, emphasizing the importance of diverse community involvement. The Welcoming Standard outlines seven key areas, such as Civic Engagement, Economic Development, and Safe Communities, that contribute to fostering inclusivity and connectivity.

Auburn will begin pursuing the seven goals required for certification. Despite the magnitude of this city-wide objective, our ongoing efforts to foster inclusivity make us confident in achieving success.

And speaking of success, Auburn is dedicated to our next generation of city workers. Our internship program, “Next Step, Auburn”, was designed to help college students figure out their passion while also educating them on the benefits of government work. This program not only provides valuable experiences for young talent but also ensures the continuity of skilled professionals in our workforce. We hope to expand our internship program in the years to come and invite all current and recent college graduates to apply this spring. I can tell you that I learned much from last year’s class of interns, and a couple of them have become full-time member of Team Auburn, and a couple more are coming back for another summer internship. We have plans to keep them very busy!

In addition to teaching and training our city staff of the future, our Emergency Management team is dedicated to coaching and fostering a team of emergency responders, should a wide-scale emergency happen in our region.

In 2023, we graduated our 55th and 56th Community Emergency Response Team or CERT classes, adding 30 new members to our community's 850-strong CERT team. These individuals are trained in emergency preparedness, search & rescue, and the Incident Command System (ICS) through 24 hours of comprehensive training. Equipped with these skills, our graduates can respond to emergencies in their neighborhoods when professional responders are unavailable.

And finally, what’s a city without its very own magazine?

This past year, our city staff have been hard at work delivering a new and improved City of Auburn Magazine that’s full of engaging stories, incredible photos and captivating designs. The fact that you might learn something about your city you didn’t already know is just icing on the cake. I love reading it!

There are many reasons someone chooses to call Auburn home. There are many more that keep them sticking around for years on end. Let’s take a look.


Claire, you are definitely on the right track to be Mayor one day!


I am filled with gratitude for the opportunity to stand here tonight and share some insights into our wonderful city.  I care deeply about this community and I’m proud to come to work every morning, evening and yes, weekends. Remember when I told you how understanding and gracious my friends and family are? It is a 24/7 365 gift – it’s not a job when you love what you do!

Growth has been a hallmark of our city, and we've embraced it with thoughtful planning. The Comprehensive Plan, "Imagine Auburn," charts our course towards 2044, encompassing key aspects like housing, transportation, and economic development. Exciting developments in downtown Auburn, including the revitalization of Auburn Avenue and the upcoming Auburn Avenue Theater, promise a thriving urban core.

Safety remains a top priority, and our police department's dedication, coupled with innovative initiatives like the Officer Wellness Program, ensures the well-being of our residents. Despite challenges, we stand resilient, actively engaging with state lawmakers to address concerns and enhance public safety.

Vibrancy defines Auburn, from the vibrant parks to the bustling arts and culture scene. Our Parks, Arts, and Recreation staff have worked tirelessly to enhance our community spaces, creating a city that exudes vitality. The Postmark Center for the Arts stands as a legacy to our commitment to a vibrant and diverse Auburn.

Finally, what makes Auburn home is not just the physical space but the people who call it home. Our schools exemplify educational excellence. The continued growth of our city is complemented by initiatives like Welcoming City, showcasing Auburn's warmth and inclusivity.

Auburn is not just a city; it's a community that thrives on collaboration, diversity, progress and a sense of belonging. Our shared achievements and ongoing efforts pave the way for a future that is vibrant, inclusive, and prosperous. We’ll always face challenges, but together, we can continue to make Auburn a city we’re proud to call home.

You may have noticed my entrance or “walk out” music tonight was “I Won’t Back Down” by Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers. That isn’t just because that’s one of my favorite eras of music, but because being your mayor, and standing up for what we believe in is my absolute honor and privilege. I prefer working together, and I'm willing to address the needs of our city with anyone and everyone who can either help or is trying to hinder the work. You should expect nothing less.

Thank you for your time, your dedication to Auburn, and your commitment to building a brighter future for us all. May the coming year bring us closer together and open new opportunities for growth and success. May you be proud of the work you do, the person you are, and the difference you make.