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Mossback’s Northwest

Bertha’s Legacy: Seattle’s First Female Mayor and the Police Chief She Battled

Following the election of Jenny Durkan, Knute Berger tells the story of Mayor Bertha Knight Landes and Police Chief William Severyn.

March 26, 2018

In each episode of Mossback’s Northwest, Knute Berger will mine a particular Seattle historical or cultural nugget, and you’ll learn the hidden backstory behind it and find out why it’s still relevant today.

Seattle recently elected its second female mayor, Jenny Durkan. In this episode, “Bertha’s Legacy,” Berger takes a historical look back at the first woman to hold the office and her struggle to reform the corrupt police department.


Eric Keto

From the Oregon Coast to the North Slope of Alaska, Eric enjoys telling stories from the western edge of the country. His nonfiction video work has been featured on The Atlantic, PBS NewsHour and Alaska Public Media.

More stories by Eric Keto

Knute Berger

Knute Berger is Crosscut’s Mossback. Born and raised in Seattle, he writes with his own Pacific Northwest perspective. He also writes the monthly “Gray Matters” column for Seattle magazine where he is editor-at-large, and is an occasional commentator on KUOW-FM’s “Week in Review.” He is the author of two books: Pugetopolis: A Mossback Takes On Growth Addicts, Weather Wimps, and the Myth of Seattle Nice and Space Needle, The Spirit of Seattle (2012), the official 50th anniversary history of the tower. He was writer-in-residence at the Space Needle and has had a cocktail named after him at Ivar’s. You can email him at or follow him on twitter @KnuteBerger.

More stories by Knute Berger