More than a year after Jesús Aguirre quit as Seattle Parks superintendent, he’s just been nominated to return to the job. That’s one of four cabinet-level changes announced by Mayor Jenny Durkan’s office today. Aguirre left in January of last year to join his family’s welding business. Christopher Williams, who served as interim superintendent for four years before Aguirre was hired in 2015, has filled in since his departure. The mayor’s news release also notes the impending departure of city Housing Office director Steve Walker as well as nominees to lead the Office of Economic Development and Office of Employee Ombud; read it after the jump:
Mayor Jenny A. Durkan announced today three new City of Seattle leaders focused on promoting access to Seattle’s parks and recreation opportunities, fostering economic development, and addressing harassment and discrimination in the City workplace as the first-ever leader of the City’s newly-created and independent Office of the Employee Ombud.
First, Mayor Durkan will nominate Jesús S. Aguirre as Superintendent of the Department of Parks & Recreation (SPR), a role Mr. Aguirre previously served in from June 2015 to January 2018. Prior to his service to the City of Seattle, Jesús served as the State Superintendent of Education in Washington, D.C., and as the Director of the District of Columbia Departments of Parks and Recreation, among many other roles in government and public service.
“We are excited to welcome Jesús Aguirre back to the City family and to Seattle Parks & Recreation,” said Mayor Durkan. “Jesús has a track record of working collaboratively and with community to help make Seattle a more inclusive, just, and beautiful place. Under his leadership, Seattle Parks & Recreation will continue to promote healthy people, a healthy environment, and strong communities.”
“It’s an honor to be nominated by Mayor Durkan to serve as the Superintendent of Parks and Recreation. As Seattle continues to grow and change, parks and recreation will play a key role in enhancing the livability of our city, and in ensuring that it is truly accessible and affordable to all,” said Jesús Aguirre. “Seattle has one of the best parks and recreation systems in the country and I look forward to working the Mayor, the Council, the parks and recreation team, and our many community partners to responsibly steward this great system as we work to support a heathy environment, healthy people, and strong communities.”
Second, Mayor Durkan will nominate Bobby Lee as the next director of the City’s Office of Economic Development. Mr. Lee currently serves as the Director of Economic Development for the City of Portland. Prior to his service with the City of Portland, Bobby served in the Office of Governor Kate Brown as the Regional Solutions Coordinator, where he led an integrated team focused on solving the state’s economic and community development challenges. In addition to working in the private sector and for advocacy organizations, including Oregon’s largest workforce development agency, Mr. Lee also previously served on the City Council in Eugene, Oregon.
“As our City grows and faces unprecedented challenges on affordability, Bobby is the right person to lead the Office of Economic Development and help foster a strong, inclusive economy and promote true opportunity for all,” said Mayor Durkan.
“I am deeply honored to join the City of Seattle and Mayor Jenny Durkan’s team as the Director of Economic Development,” said Bobby Lee. “When I saw the Mayor’s recent State of the City address, I knew I wanted to work with her. Her vision to build an economy that is inclusive and widely shared is the same one I have spent much of my career working to achieve. I hope to be an agent of positive change for all of Seattle.”
Third, Mayor Durkan announced she will nominate Dr. Amarah Khan as the first-ever Director of the City’s newly created Office of the Employee Ombud (OEO).
Dr. Khan currently serves as the Director of Equity and Inclusive Practices at the Renton School District. Prior to that, she served as the Associate Director for Global Diversity Initiatives at Oregon State University (OSU). At OSU, she worked to advance cultural competence on campus through shared learning and trainings. Dr. Khan spent her early career working as a humanitarian aid worker across South Asia and the United States. She is an international development scholar with extensive background in conflict management and peace studies.
“I join City of Seattle employees in welcoming Dr. Amarah Khan to our incredible workforce. Dr. Khan is an inspirational woman who is deeply dedicated to creating a safe and inclusive work environment that gives City employees the support they need,” said Mayor Durkan. “Over the past year, we have worked with urgency to make significant changes to our City government, elevating the voices of those most impacted.”
“The opportunity to serve one of the best cities in the world is a distinct honor. This work has become my calling in life, and I am so excited to join hands with City employees who wish to improve the ways we lift each other up,” said Dr. Khan. “Change won’t happen overnight, but City employees will always have my impartial and honest support. I look forward to being in service to a great community.”
In December 2018, the City Council voted unanimously to pass Mayor Durkan’s legislation to create the OEO. The OEO was one of the central recommendations of the Anti-Harassment Interdepartmental Team (IDT), which Mayor Durkan established in January 2018 to review the City’s policies on harassment, discrimination, and other forms of misconduct.
Led by Dr. Khan, the OEO will be a safe, confidential space for City employees to discuss workplace concerns, including harassment, discrimination, and other forms of misconduct. The Ombud will help employees navigate all their options when it comes to addressing workplace culture, but it will not conduct investigations. While Dr. Khan works in the coming weeks to stand up the office, she will hold a series of listening sessions with City employees to further shape the mission and work plan of the office.
In addition, Mayor Durkan announced that Steve Walker, Director of the City’s Office of Housing, will depart the City this summer.
“I am grateful to Steve for his years of service to Seattle and for all his work to address one of the central challenges facing Seattle: affordable housing. Under his leadership, the Office of Housing has forged strong community partnerships and has worked to build housing in every part of the City,” said Mayor Durkan. “Working with communities and our partners across the region, we will continue to build more affordable housing as quickly as possible.”