The many, the well paid, the Murray hires

To fetch top talent, Mayor-elect Ed Murray bumps up salaries for some high-ranking staffers. A look at how pay rates have changed since the early years of Mayor Mike McGinn's reign.

To lure top staff, Mayor-elect Ed Murray’s incoming administration is paying top dollar. Salaries for some of the new hires that Murray announced on Wednesday are increasing between 14 and 40 percent, compared to those offered during Mayor Mike McGinn’s early days in office.

The boosted salaries are necessary to bag highly qualified applicants for upper-level city jobs and reflect improved economic conditions, according to one of Murray's transition team co-chairs.

Among the highest earning new hires that Murray announced on Wednesday are interim Seattle Department of Transportation Director Goran Sparrman, who will make $176,000 a year, and Personnel Director Susan Coskey, who will be paid $175,000 annually. By comparison, Peter Hahn was offered $155,000 in yearly pay when McGinn hired him as SDOT's director in 2010, and Personnel Director Dave Stewart, who the mayor hired in April 2011, was paid $142,000. Murray's deputy mayors, the director of the forthcoming Office of Policy and Innovation, and the budget director will receive $170,000 per year. Salaries for the other nine new hires announced on Wednesday range from $116,000 to $160,000.

 Murray announces new hires at a Tuesday press conference.

Mayor-elect Ed Murray announces new hires at a Wednesday press conference.

Dwight Dively, director of performance, strategy and budget for King County, who was one of Murray’s transition committee chairs, wrote in an email that he and co-chair Martha Choe, “made salary recommendations to the Mayor-Elect based on the premise that getting good people requires paying competitive salaries.”

*All salaries for McGinn hires are from a Jan. 4, 2010 Mayor's Office press release, except for the personnel director salary, which is from a April 20, 2011 Mayor's Office press release.

It’s worth acknowledging, Dively wrote, that McGinn took office in the depths of the Great Recession and “was able to hire people at lower salaries as a result.”

To come up with the pay rates Dively said he and Choe looked at salaries during Greg Nickels' and Paul Schell's mayoral terms, and those paid in similar cities in the region, including Bellevue. The salaries, he also emphasized, fit within the authorized city budget.

“I think it is also fair to note that the two administrations have different philosophies about the type of individuals it takes to run a large, complex government,” Dively wrote in the email. Mayor-elect Murray, he added, “wants to emphasize public service, but also wants to ensure he has people with the skills and experience to help lead the City. I think if you look at the people he has chosen, you can see the great qualifications each of them brings.”

Related story:

"Murray announces a barrage of new hires," by Bill Lucia

Official biographies provided by Murray's of the new hires are here

The graphic is by Bill Lucia.

Bill Lucia writes about Seattle City Hall and politics for Crosscut. He can be reached at and you can follow him on Twitter @bill_lucia.

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Posted Wed, Dec 11, 9:48 p.m. Inappropriate

Honestly, I don't think the pay increases are justifiable. These were all already jobs that brought home 6 figure paychecks. Why does the PR guy for the Mayor's office need a 40% wage increase?

Now contrast this with Murray's go-slow approach to increasing the minimum wage...


Posted Thu, Dec 12, 4:08 a.m. Inappropriate

How do these salaries compare to similar sized cities? What are the cost of living indexes in those cities? I don't mind paying the going rate for competence and solid experience.


Posted Thu, Dec 12, 3:09 p.m. Inappropriate

I hear the "going rate of pay" argument a lot. I think it's bogus , feeds elitism, and further widens the wealth and income gap. There are many people with a high degree of competence who would gladly work in these positions for 2/3 of the pay listed in the article. Or at McGinn's "piker" levels. You don't need more than $80,000/year to live well in Seattle (unless you insist on living in a home with a million dollar mortgage).

If anyone thinks my opinion contrary to reality, I'd like to see some data. This escalation reminds me of the obscene pay corporate CEOs receive. E.g.,


Posted Thu, Dec 12, 4:09 p.m. Inappropriate

As best I can find, no one in the Legislative Department (City Clerk, head of City Council central staff, City Council members) makes more than $130,000.


Posted Fri, Dec 13, 9:14 a.m. Inappropriate

Aaliya Gupta – Director of the Office of Immigrant & Refugee Affairs

Aaliyah Gupta is deeply committed to social change work and utilizes her skills to assist nonprofit organizations and institutions to realize their visions and achieve their goals. She has a broad base of experience that includes establishing and growing community based organizations, organizing in immigrant and refugee communities, transitional leadership, coaching and mentoring small grassroots organizations, managing programs,fundraising and grant-making. Her knowledge of local communities, network of relationships, strong operational skills, and strategic thinking will inform the issues she
will be working on in the City of Seattle. Aaliyah is also an artist and exhibits her work regularly across the country. She received her Master of Fine Arts degree from Stony Brook University.




Posted Fri, Dec 13, 2:37 p.m. Inappropriate

The fact that this city has such an office is why I vote against every single levy here.


Posted Thu, Dec 12, 7:47 a.m. Inappropriate

So I guess this means that the city coffers are fine and they won't be asking us for tax or fee increases in the next year or two?


Posted Fri, Dec 13, 1:53 p.m. Inappropriate

Of course they'll want new fees and taxes, and of course the "progressives" will be all for them, including yourself. Me, I will vote against every tax or fee here no matter what it's for.


Posted Sat, Dec 14, 11:03 p.m. Inappropriate

"I will vote against every tax or fee here no matter what it's for"

Why do you live here?


Posted Sun, Dec 15, 4:11 p.m. Inappropriate

To make it difficult for you and your kind. I helped defeat that jerk of a mayor you loved, and I helped defeat that $60 car tab fee that you loved. I'll be the vote against everything you support. And for all those Eyman initiatives that you hate. Not that "progressives" are haters or anything, right?


Posted Sun, Dec 15, 9 p.m. Inappropriate

"I helped defeat that jerk of a mayor you loved"

Your memory is bad; I've stated more than once I did not vote for McGinn again.

"I helped defeat that $60 car tab fee that you loved."

I didn't "love" it because it was flawed. And I have worked hard with opponents on other issues. I don't treat people as enemies for such superficial reasons; that's stupid and self-defeating.

"I'll be the vote against everything you support."

Really: I thought you indicated you voted for Charter Amendment 19.

If "To make it difficult for you and your kind" is a major reason you stay in a community where you appear to hate the vast majority of people and policies, no wonder you are so bitter and angry. Not that your public behavior indicates hatred or anything, right? And BTW, you'd be more effective at making things more difficult for progressives if you didn't behave like a two year old.

"And for all those Eyman initiatives that you hate. Not that "progressives" are haters or anything, right?"

yap yap


Posted Thu, Dec 12, 9:06 a.m. Inappropriate

It's not about the money equating to quality.

Money is what you have to offer a professional muscle to come and work for a dysfunctional organization, where no progress can be made, consensus reached, or satisfaction squeezed from the silent citizenry.

It is a proven business model, used by Bell, California.

Posted Thu, Dec 12, 10:45 a.m. Inappropriate

For those who disagree with my fervent points, this link'd article for your reading pleasure:

My fervent points made against established transportation policy throughout Seattle, area Counties and State agencies, has led me to legal means these last years of your sanity, dear Seattlers, watching your MONSTER MOLE ultimately inexorably liquify and undermine soft waterfront and soils further east.

The Murray administration still supports the TUNNEL.
Steer the bore toward the Box Cut/cover and make the proper seawall.
The drill-fill Sea fence thing technique 'compounds' the soil destabilization affect.
MercerEast is fine. MercerWest ruins MercerEast. No freight corridor on Mercer.
Don't WIDEN Mercer Place HILLCLIMB!
Keep Battery Street Tunnel. Go 99 under Lower Belltown, or a 2-stoplight option not discussed
in 2007 (nor 2009), but could work.
The new council has 2 weeks to save Seattle. What will they say after learning Mike's gut instinct oppostion was correct? Sorry? Box/Cut-cover/Seawall. The Oregonian way to do it, yew nuttburgers.


Posted Thu, Dec 12, 2:04 p.m. Inappropriate

What a complete waste of money, right up there with the high & mighty at the Port of Seattle. There are plenty of unemployed but very capable & qualified people that would jump at the chance for half the money but no, they are not "good enough". Will be very interesting to hear what our socialist will say about all of this (as you know she will give back all but $ 40,000. of her pay to the city).


Posted Thu, Dec 12, 2:13 p.m. Inappropriate

Office of Policy and Innovation?? And with a director and deputy director together being paid $300,000?! To do what, exactly? As if the city doesn't already have enough self-important managers, directors and advisors mucking up the decision-making framework - now Murray wants to add another layer of pretentious gurus assigned to"innovate?" Can you spell waste!
....Not a promising start for Murray..

Posted Thu, Dec 12, 3:25 p.m. Inappropriate

The new Husky's coach is getting $3 million + bonus per year. No objections?


Posted Tue, Dec 17, 12:49 p.m. Inappropriate

That isn't tax money


Posted Thu, Dec 12, 6:04 p.m. Inappropriate

Overlooked in the complaints about these rising salaries: how hard it is to get good people to consider working for government, given the barrage of criticism and the fetters placed on real leaders. Also: serving in government is now a bad career move, where before it used to be a good path to an interesting, important job in the private sector.

Take away those old incentives and you have to up the pay. Alas.

Posted Fri, Dec 13, 12:30 a.m. Inappropriate

Where is the data showing that "serving in government is now a bad career move, where before it used to be a good path to an interesting, important job in the private sector"?

The US government and politicians at all levels were open to legal lobbying and fiscal inducements and historically the private sector generally hires people who have been in government to lead such efforts. Has something changed?


Posted Fri, Dec 13, 8:14 a.m. Inappropriate



Posted Fri, Dec 13, 9:02 a.m. Inappropriate

Every argument for the sky high salaries is more of the big government, big business framework for justifying excess in their world. This is a cabal of the usual insiders that I predict are being set in place so that Murray can rule Seattle with an iron fist. The soft spoken, I'm careful, I act a little tentative approach is defied by the administrative setup that is being put in place. The Policy and Innovation gambit is clearly another one of these squishy sounding categories of bureaucracy intended to coverup a myriad of activity, while establishing a means to fund the no doubt to come, mischief in the making. Further, let's face it, with big salaries in play like this, their loyalty to the man to a person is to the last drop. Murray will make Nickels' regime a teddy bear walk in comparison. Never underestimate the desire by a career government and political creature to exercise their acquired powers to the fullest extent possible. The gauntlet is more than down with the stratospheric salaries.

Posted Fri, Dec 13, 10:20 a.m. Inappropriate

I think the most significant reason public service has become a "bad career move" is the constant hateful beating up of the public sector by anti-government, right wing ideologues, accompanied by a creeping weakening of pension and other benefits used to induce people into lower and mid level positions.

I do not think these rising salaries reflect any real difficulty finding well qualified people at lower pay; they reflect Murray's desire for these particular people. I'm not suggesting a wide open hiring process, but there do need to be limits on how much public sector executives can spend on patronage positions. As I recall, the City Council sets those limits, and upped them for the Mayor's Office in the recently adopted City budget as soon as they knew McGinn was on the way out.


Posted Fri, Dec 13, 1:46 p.m. Inappropriate

Yep, it just hurts the feelings of an useless Seattle "progressive" to be told that he's a fraud and a failure -- especially when it's true. Look, this city's government messes up everything it touches. Police, streets, transportation, zoning, garbage pickup, parks, you name it. They can't even keep the ice off the West Seattle bridge, the idiots.

They are stunningly incompetent, and now we're supposed to worry about their self-esteem. Typical "progressives." Can't do a damned thing, but they still want to be praised because, well, it's cloudy around here.


Posted Sat, Dec 14, 5:06 p.m. Inappropriate

yap yap


Posted Sun, Dec 15, 4:12 p.m. Inappropriate

You sure do yap a lot, "progressive."


Posted Fri, Dec 13, 1:29 p.m. Inappropriate

I also had many of the same concerns about cronyism from Murray before the election. His campaign advisors came from Nickels.

Meet The New Boss, Same as the boss before the last Boss, and even more entreneched. Prepare for lot's of studies, "collaboration" that reaches a pre-defined conclusion, yes men, women, and LGBT's, all with the same neo-liberal vision that has stood us in good stead at the Federal level.


Posted Sun, Dec 15, 9:34 a.m. Inappropriate

Thank you Mr. Brewster for so eloquently restating my comments: when you have a dysfunctional system in a hostile environment, where there is no path to success in your job or in the hearts of the citizens, where there is no...

It is not ours to figure a cure
only to complain
to mock
to worry
that is our job for sure

Once bickering generals break the wall
that has isolated and encased
they'll be able to see us again
understanding their place

Not jaded by victories of decadence,
triumph, trickery and power
but as mild, meek and subservient
to the people -- I serve, I solve,
I am your Savior -- not merely
"the man of the hour"

Posted Thu, Dec 12, 9:37 p.m. Inappropriate

The official biographies linked to this story reveal lots of partners, pets, hobbies, law degrees, past government gigs, political cause celeb' involvement, and virtually zero practical, private sector business experience. Bikes, drugs, illegals, dogs, potholes, and crimes have overtaken Seattle. Is the new team ready for all the challenges?


Posted Fri, Dec 13, 1:51 p.m. Inappropriate

Of course not. Nothing's going to change.


Posted Fri, Dec 13, 8:09 a.m. Inappropriate

Mayor communications directors Robert Mak and Beth Hester both made over $100,000 so Murray's salary level is not a departure from what other mayors have paid.

Posted Fri, Dec 13, 8:28 a.m. Inappropriate

Why complain? It's only money, and it's only taxpayer money at that. Murray may as well be playing a game of Monopoly (and in a way, he is) because it's not HIS money he's using. It isn't like this is the private sector, where your expenses have to be reconciled with revenues, because in the public sector you can always raise taxes or fees to cover shortfalls. Seattle is no different than anywhere else.

Posted Fri, Dec 13, 9:11 a.m. Inappropriate

$140k for a communications director? These salaries seem a bit much and is the wrong message to be sending right from the start. Where in the private sector, unless you are communications director for GM or Microsoft, could you pull down such a salary?

This is the stuff that undermines faith in government, even by folks who otherwise are supportive. Where is it written that because you work in the public sector, supported by tax dollars, that you can have a salary and benefits substantially greater than the public sector? AND most folks work in the private sector that a paying the tax bill.

A 14-40% pay increase for the positions? Holy shite. I'd like to see some graph after a year or so that indicates the productivity of these positions, the cost savings these folks have brought to their departments, and the increases in efficiencies. Ya know, like all of us go thru each year - goals, standards, performance review.


Posted Fri, Dec 13, 1:48 p.m. Inappropriate

A "progressive" giving a performance review to another "progressive." What do you do, sit around smoking dope and listening to old Joan Baez records?


Posted Fri, Dec 13, 2:08 p.m. Inappropriate

yap yap


Posted Fri, Dec 13, 2:35 p.m. Inappropriate

We're going to have to fit you with a bark collar pretty soon.


Posted Fri, Dec 13, 3:53 p.m. Inappropriate

yap snarl


Posted Fri, Dec 13, 4:15 p.m. Inappropriate

Lily, such an angry "progressive" you are? Need a doggie tranquilizer, do ya?


Posted Fri, Dec 13, 2:21 p.m. Inappropriate

Observe which side resorts to the most vociferous name-calling and you are likely to have identified the side with the weaker argument and they know it.

Charles R. Anderson


Posted Sun, Dec 15, 9:34 p.m. Inappropriate

Lily32 Is the 32 for your IQ? or

Is it the for the number of times you are gonna quote someone about name calling? or

Is it for the number of times you will make a reference to some unfunny joke about performance art?

Give it up- people call you names because you are a dumb-ass. As the Dead used to sing-"please don't dominate the rap jack, if you got nothing to say"

Posted Mon, Dec 16, 10:31 p.m. Inappropriate

I kind of enjoy Lily32, myself. She's, shall we say, "of a type."


Posted Fri, Dec 20, 12:47 p.m. Inappropriate

I've just been enamored by the lack of facts, logical thought progression, or evidence based arguments put forth and quite entertained by folks getting their panties in a bunch when it is pointed out. Carry on with hissy fit - unless you would like to offer a substantive discussion. Ta-Ta.


Posted Fri, Dec 20, 1 p.m. Inappropriate

Oh dear, the rabble is getting quite unnerved aren't they?

“The problem is that the people with the most ridiculous ideas are always the people who are most certain of them."
B. Maher


Posted Fri, Dec 13, 4:23 p.m. Inappropriate

What are the McGinn appointees receiving in 2013? Isn't that the relevant benchmark -- even if a little more research is required?


Posted Sat, Dec 14, 9:59 a.m. Inappropriate


Thanks for your comment. To answer your question: Yes, looking at 2013 salaries could be a more relevant benchmark. The idea with the story was to compare some of Mayor-elect Ed Murray's salary offers as he heads toward office, with some of Mayor Mike McGinn's salary offers during the start of his term.

The News Tribune has a searchable database with 2012 Seattle City Salaries on their site. They filed a public records request for the information. The link is here:

The 2012 salaries for the staff positions mentioned in the story are as follows (numbers in parentheses are the "McGinn" salaries in the graphic):

Personnel Director: $143,903.98 ($142,000.00)
Deputy Mayor: $123,561.36 ($125,000)
SDOT Director: $163,124.70 ($155,000)
Budget Director: $146,387.67 ($125,000)
Communications Director: $116,781.57 ($100,000)

One of the other commenters noted that past communications directors in the mayor's office have earned over $100,000. That's true. The story doesn't say anything about salaries outside of the early McGinn years, or Murray's most recent round of hires. It looks strictly at two snapshots of time and I hope that's clear in the writing and the graphic.

Posted Sun, Dec 15, 5:11 a.m. Inappropriate

The Governor of the State has a current Salary of $166,891. Are the salaries of the new Murray hires a statement of comparable worth? Where do the incentive packages and benefits take the total compensations? Are there step increases or bonuses potentially for exempt staff?


Posted Sun, Dec 15, 4:08 p.m. Inappropriate

Looking at Inslee, I'd say he's paid a hundred grand too much.


Posted Tue, Dec 17, 12:50 p.m. Inappropriate

People in leadership and policy making decisions in the city government should be required to live in Seattle. It makes me a little nervous that our new director of transportation lives in Sammamish.


Posted Wed, Dec 18, 3:51 p.m. Inappropriate

So much for civil service... Is Murray saying that the folks currently working in these positions (for the lower rate) are inadequate or somehow now substandard?

Just more dipping into the public wellspring and less money for actually doing any work. Seattle has become home for the professional bureaucrat. How about, instead, making do with fewer overhead staff and sticking with the current salary schedule?


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