Burien elects first Latino Mayor

VIDEO: Burien elects first latino Mayor

BURIEN, Wash. — At Burien City Hall, people stopped to shake hands and offer their congratulations to newly elected Mayor Jimmy Matta.

“I'm very humbled,” Matta said, adding that he is “Thankful for the trust put in me by my fellow councilmembers.”

By a vote of 4-1, the city council selected Matta as their mayor, making him the first Latino mayor of the city.

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This landmark moment followed his election as one of two Latinos first elected to the council last November.

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He's a construction supervisor and a former labor leader who born in Preston, Idaho to undocumented Guatemalan farmworkers.

KIRO 7 asked him how he would respond to those who say he doesn’t have the qualifications to lead the city as a political novice and newcomer.

“The experience factor will come,” Matta said. “This is not a mayor-strong city. The mayor... chairs the meeting and makes sure other councilmembers have their voices heard.”

His victory comes on the heels of a divisive year for the town of 51,000.

Last year, the city debated a sanctuary city ordinance that even went to court when a group called Respect Washington worked to get the issue on the November ballot.

After that effort failed, the group circulated a flyer that supposedly listed the addresses of undocumented immigrants and the crimes they committed.

“Our country is divided. Our community is divided,” Matta said.

But Matta, who says he's encountered racism following his election, vows to work together to heal the community.

“I can’t control hate and racism because I do believe and I know for a fact Burien is better than that,” Matta said.