Education

Karen Vialle, school board member and first woman mayor of Tacoma, has died

Karen Vialle, school board member of Tacoma Public Schools and the first woman to become mayor of Tacoma, has died. She was 76.

Vialle died Sunday afternoon, a friend of Vialle’s shared with The News Tribune on Sunday. She’s been battling lung cancer for more than a year.

“This is a significant loss. We will all miss her dearly,” Tacoma Public Schools Superintendent Carla Santorno told The News Tribune. “We have all been praying for her to rally and come back. We can’t imagine life on the board without her.”

Vialle was a lifelong Tacoma resident and graduated from Wilson High School and the University of Puget Sound.

She held advanced degrees from Washington State University and had three kids and eight grandkids, according to her bio on the Tacoma Public Schools website.

Vialle served as the mayor of Tacoma from 1990 to 1994. She was the first woman to hold the position. Previously, she served as a City Council member for two years.

Vialle was first elected to the Tacoma Public Schools Board of Directors in 2011 and was reelected in 2017.

Friends, family and community members joined together for a tribute on July 3 to share “stories of Inspiration, friendship and political interaction with Karen,” according to a Facebook event. Videos from the tribute were shared to Vialle’s Facebook page.

Tacoma Public Schools will start a process to fill Vialle’s position on the school board, Santorno said. Board policy requires vacant seats to be filled within 90 days with a public process.

“She’s been a real force. She’s got a genuine love and a genuine heart for all kids no matter what,” Santorno said.

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