By John Larson
One of the more popular politicians in the history of Tacoma is about to receive quite a present for his upcoming 90thbirthday: a bridge named in his honor. Mayor Victoria Woodards and Chief Policy Analyst Melanie Harding have presented a request to Tacoma City Council to rename the 34thStreet Bridge as the Harold Moss Bridge. The topic was discussed during the Sept. 10 Tacoma City Council study session.
The bridge spans State Route 7 (Pacific Avenue) between East B Street and East D Street. It is a vital link to the East Side, allowing motorists and pedestrians access to the popular restaurant Stanley and Seafort’s and McKinley Avenue.
Moss moved to the area in the 1950s while serving in the military. He later became a dental technician and ran a business, Northwest Porcelain Studios.
His foray into politics began in 1969, when he ran unsuccessfully for Tacoma City Council. A year later, five council members were recalled and Moss was appointed to fill one of the positions. He was subsequently elected to a four-year term in 1971. He later ran and was elected in 1987 and 1991. Jack Hyde was elected mayor in 1993. Shortly after taking office, Hyde died of a heart attack. On Jan. 25, 1994, Moss was appointed by his council colleagues to take the office of mayor, making him the first African-American to ever hold that post. He later was elected to Pierce County Council and was selected by his peers to serve as chair of the council. He was the first African-American to serve on Pierce County Council.
In his time serving at city hall, Moss held a range of leadership roles, including the Association of Washington Cities Executive Board, the Law Enforcement Support Agency Board, the National League of Cities, the Pierce Transit Board of Commissioners, the Tacoma/Pierce County Board of Health, the U.S. Conference of Mayors and the Puyallup Indian Settlement Implementation Assistance Committee. He was active in the community as well, helping found the Tacoma Urban League and the Black Collective.
Moss threw his hat in the ring for the mayoral race in 2001, when he lost in the general election to Bill Baarsma. In 2007 he ran for a district seat on the council, losing to incumbent Spiro Manthou.
Woodards worked for Moss during his time on Pierce County Council, and she considers him an important mentor. She said of all of his notable accomplishments, Moss considers his role in lighting the bridge to be what he is most proud of, thus the idea of renaming the bridge in his honor.
The city recently revised its policy on naming public places, such as streets and bridges. Woodardss recalled a conversation she had some time ago with David Zeeck, who worked at The News Tribune for many years, finishing his time there as publisher. Zeeck commented on how it seemed odd that someone needed to die before something could be named in his or her honor, rather than allowing for this to be done while the person of honor was still alive to appreciate the gesture. Woodards noted that Moss will turn 90 on Oct. 1, the day the council is scheduled to vote on this request.
Councilmember Catherine Ushka, who represents the district where the bridge is located, noted that Moss has a legacy of building bridges in the community.
Councilmember Anders Ibsen, who noted that he represents the district where Moss now resides, described him as a trailblazing mayor. He said renaming the bridge is a fitting tribute that “will bring joy to a man in his golden years.”
Councilmember Lillian Hunter noted that the honor is well deserved. “He shined a light not just on 34thStreet, but the whole community.”