Bruce Harrell was born in 1958 in Seattle to an African American father who was one of the first Black union linemen at Seattle City Light, and a Japanese American mother who had been incarcerated at Minidoka during World War II and worked for the Seattle Public Library. The Harrell family lived in Seattle’s redlined Central District, where Bruce graduated from Garfield High School in 1976 as valedictorian of his class.
Bruce went on to attend the University of Washington on a football scholarship, from 1976 to 1979. At the University of Washington, Bruce earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in political science in 1979, won a Rose Bowl, and made the national Academic All-American First Team in football.
Bruce later earned a Juris Doctor from the University of Washington School of Law in 1984. As an attorney, Bruce worked in technology and telecommunications before representing minority workers and youth and supporting BIPOC-owned small businesses. He served as a mentor and coach for students and young people across South Seattle.
Bruce was elected to the Seattle City Council in 2007 citywide, and twice re-elected, later serving his home district of South Seattle. He was twice elected City Council President by his peers, one of just a few to ever serve multiple terms in that role. He also served five days as interim mayor in 2017.
On the Council, Bruce was a leader on issues of racial equity, public safety reform, and economic and educational opportunity for all. He sponsored the law to “Ban the Box,” led efforts to pass Seattle’s first bias-free police law and to ensure body cameras for all SPD officers, and championed Seattle’s Race and Social Justice Initiative, requiring all Seattle policies to be reviewed through an equity lens.
Bruce pushed for the pilot program that eventually became the Seattle Promise, providing free college education to Seattle Public School students, and he originated the Great Student Initiative to provide 20,000 Seattle Public School students access to computers and high-speed Internet access. He helped lead negotiations to pass the $15 minimum wage and supported other groundbreaking pieces of legislation to advance support for workers and small businesses before retiring from the Council in 2019.
Now, Bruce Harrell is a candidate for Mayor of Seattle.