Mayor's office: Promotions, not dysfunction, behind high turnover

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Mayor Ed Murray

Editor's Note: Examining public records, Crosscut recently reported that turnover in Mayor Ed Murray's Office has run higher than in other recent Seattle administrations, with the exception of Paul Schell's office. This article provides a perspective from Mayor Murray's Office. 

On August 26, Crosscut published an article on the volume of staff turnover in Mayor Ed Murray's Office (“For Ed Murray's staff, a revolving door”) that missed some important context and overlooked a more important storyline: the incredibly diverse executive leadership team (and cabinet) assembled by the Mayor. As Mayor Murray’s Chief of Staff, I want to set the record straight about our office operations and staffing.

In Mayor Murray's Office, we have a staff of 43. Since January of 2014, there has been a turnover of 21 individuals. That’s not particularly unusual, since many of those cases involved promotions, temporary hires or departures due to reasons unrelated to performance. Looking at those 21 cases in the aggregate:

  • Of the 21 employees leaving the Mayor's Office, 10 continue to work in other City Departments, with the majority (six) promotions and the others (four) lateral moves.

  • Of the 11 employees that have left City employment entirely, these include Deputy Mayor Andrea Riniker who was appointed to a 6-month assignment, and Legal Counsel Lorena Gonzalez who left to run for a seat on the City Council.

  • The Mayor's senior leadership team has remained virtually unchanged since day one, with the exception of the anticipated departure of Riniker and a switch of communications directors.

The truth is that pulling back the curtain on the Mayor's Office staffing reveals more ho-hum than smoking-gun. But there’s another aspect of the Mayor's approach to staffing that deserves to be highlighted. In his inauguration speech, Mayor Murray noted that "our diversity is our strength."

He has lived by these words in is his approach to staffing his office and appointing members to his cabinet. Of the Mayor’s staff and his cabinet, 38 percent represent people of color. The two highest ranking non-elected officials in City government are women (Deputy Mayors Hyeok Kim and Kate Joncas). Mayor Murray also appointed Kathleen O'Toole as the first ever female chief of police in the City's history. And on Tuesday, the City Council confirmed the fifth African American member, Brian Surratt (Director, Office of Economic Development), to his cabinet.

As with any new organization, we are not without growing pains and areas of improvement. But Mayor Murray is proud of the dedicated public servants that serve our city and we celebrate the fact that our appointed leadership reflects our values and our community. The more accurate description of the Mayor's Office is of opening doors — rather than a revolving door.


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About the Authors & Contributors

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Mike Fong

Mike Fong is Mayor Ed Murray's Chief of Staff. He has previously served as Deputy Director of the Office of Policy and Innovation and a member of the City Council's Central Policy Staff.