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Meet Victoria Renee Woodards, The Second Woman Of Color Elected As Tacoma Mayor



On November 7, 2017, Victoria Renee Woodards was elected Tacoma, Washington’s 39th mayor, becoming only the second woman of color to hold the position. Woodards succeeded Marilyn Strickland, who was mayor from 2010 to 2017.

Woodards was born on July 19, 1965 in Riverside, California to Cornelius Woodards, who was born in Meridian, Mississippi, and Valerie (Ann Johnson) Woodards, who was born in the United Kingdom. Woodard’s birth name was Vicky, but she changed it to Victoria after joining the United States Army in search of a “stronger name.”

Cornelius Woodards was in the United States Air Force, and after a brief stint in England, he, Valerie, Victoria, three, and a younger brother, Neil (now deceased), arrived in Tacoma when he was transferred to McChord Air Force Base.

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Woodards attended Lincoln High School in Tacoma, where she joined the JROTC before enlisting in the United States Army after graduating in 1983. She expected to “see the world” after basic training at Fort Dix, New Jersey, but was surprised to be stationed at Fort Lewis, just outside Tacoma, for her entire three-year tour of duty.

Woodards had what she called a “wow moment” in her life after leaving the military. She excused herself for a bathroom break while working in an office as the only woman of color. When she returned, she overheard coworkers discussing having to deal with the “n-word.” This deeply painful experience of overt racism was a watershed moment for her.

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Woodards briefly left the workforce to live with her mother and further her education at Pierce College. She soon began working at the Tacoma Urban League, where she was in charge of memberships and the annual Urban League Dinner. This led her to collaborate with Tacoma’s political, business, labor, and educational leaders.


In November 1997, Woodards accepted an offer from Pierce Council Member (and former Tacoma Mayor) Harold Moss to work as his administrative assistant. Soon after, she entered local politics, and in 2004, she was appointed to an open seat on the Tacoma Metropolitan Parks Board.


Victoria Woodards with Harold Mass, Tacoma’s First Black Mayor (KNKX)


Woodards agreed to run for an open Tacoma City Council seat in 2009 after friends urged her to do so, and she easily defeated Kent, Washington firefighter Keven Rojecki. Woodards resigned one year before the end of her second four-year term to run for mayor in 2017.

Woodards ran against Tacoma architect Jim Merritt in a campaign in which outside political action committees spent tens of thousands of dollars on both her and her opponent’s behalf. It was by far the most expensive mayoral election in Tacoma history. Woodards won convincingly with a vote of 19,186 to 16,090.

Woodards made national headlines as mayor in June 2020 when she demanded the firing and prosecution of four Tacoma police officers after Manuel Ellis, a Black Tacoma resident, died in their custody. The Tacoma News Tribune endorsed her for reelection in 2021, and she easily defeated her opponent Steve Haverly by a margin of 25,102 to 16,707 votes.

Woodards has a national reputation as a result of her work with the United States Conference of Mayors and the National League of Cities. She is currently the League’s Second Vice-President, putting her in line to become President of the League.



Written by How Africa News

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