Our area’s new City Councilmember Rob Saka hires former SDOT West Seattle Bridge boss

As announced last month, District 1 City Councilmember Rob Saka is chairing the Transportation Committee – so you might not be surprised to hear he’s just hired a former top-level SDOT manager to join his staff. You might even recognize her: Heather Marx was the most visible SDOT manager during the 2020-2022 West Seattle Bridge closure, as the head of the bridge-stabilization-and-repair program. So visible, that her name appears in WSB archives 105 times – although the first few mentions are from her pre-bridge role as Downtown Mobility Director during the Highway 99 viaduct-to-tunnel project. Most recently, Marx has been working at the Seattle Police Department. And now she’s Policy Adviser for Councilmember Saka, who announced this in his latest newsletter, sent this afternoon. From the announcement:

Heather brings 25 years of city policy experience to the role, with a particular focus on transportation. Before joining our team, Heather served as Strategic Initiatives Director at the Seattle Police Department, and as the Program Director for Seattle Department of Transportation’s West Seattle Bridge Safety Program. While at SDOT, she led the Department’s efforts to successfully reopen the West Seattle Bridge. She brings a wealth of policy expertise in the critically important issue areas of public safety and transportation. Heather is a long-time resident of District 1 where she raised two children in Seattle Public Schools and lives in the Fauntleroy neighborhood with her husband.

Marx joins Councilmember Saka’s two previously announced staffers, Chief of Staff Elaine Ikoma Ko and District Relations Director/Scheduler Leyla Gheisar. You can see Saka’s full newsletter here.

29 Replies to "Our area's new City Councilmember Rob Saka hires former SDOT West Seattle Bridge boss"

  • Wow January 26, 2024 (8:50 pm)

    Can you imagine where we would be at if Heather “get a bike”  Marx had gotten the new bridge she was pushing so hard for? This city employee doesn’t know the first thing about public service. She is the quintessential “oh don’t worry your pretty little head, I know what’s best for all of us. You’re just an ignorant little constituent (obstacle).” If Heather had gotten her choice on the bridge solution, we would be two years into demolition. We would be so far away from an open bridge, that would have been 100% over budget in this current inflationary environment, we’d be lucky to ever get to go anywhere again. But hey, get a bike plumbers/carpenters/tradespeople. Rob Saka: really? This is a phenomenally tone deaf hiring. Wow. She deserved to lose her job at SDOT, one of the most dysfunctional branches of local government imaginable, and now she’s running your policy. Wow. I mean if your goal is to ram policy people don’t want down their throats, then you got the right person. What a disaster. 

    • Josh January 26, 2024 (10:07 pm)

      Seeing as she apparently views us citizens as obstacles maybe Rob will fear she reminds immigrants of Trumps wall and fire her quickly, lol. Also maybe this is Robs way of signaling that we aren’t actually good on bicycle infrastructure?I love my city and hope this guy and this corporate clown council do a good job governing but I’m not holding my breath. Especially given Rob and his Boss Bruce appointed someone whose civic engagement only started once an effort to help streamline the efforts to get  vulnerable people in the region off the street led her to feel the bottom line of her business would be threatened. I don’t actually have an opinion on Marx but it is abundantly obvious Saka is just some guy hoping to collect a decent wage and maybe continue to fail up once his single term in office ends in inevitable defeat. 

    • K January 26, 2024 (10:31 pm)

      Anyone who is surprised Saka added Marx to his staff paid zero attention to his campaign.

    • StupidInSeattle January 26, 2024 (10:38 pm)

      Totally agree with Wow.  Heather Marx displayed a shocking arrogance and lack of understanding towards citizens’ problems with the closed West Seattle bridge.  Yet another example of an incompetent Government employee failing up.

      • 1994 January 26, 2024 (10:58 pm)

        Ditto that “Totally agree with Wow.”  Get a bike Heather has successfully accomplished the FUMU.

    • Andros January 27, 2024 (10:00 am)

      Saka is proving himself out right away.  I really didn’t want this guy in office.  And here we are.  He’s filling positions with nincompoops.  

    • What January 27, 2024 (10:52 am)

      Wow, can you explain what you are talking about?  Honest question. When did Marx ever say “get a bike” ? Or that she wanted a new bridge over repair? I don’t recall reading this anywhere.  

      • Wow January 27, 2024 (12:59 pm)

        I appreciate the thoughtful questions: Heather, in the online community meeting (that was attended by I think over 1000 people), said in response to a question “get a bike”. And sure it was in full context of something like “you might need to get a bike.” But delivered in her baseline condescending, insensitive and I don’t give a… darn tone. If you’ve ever dealt with Heather it’s her thing. (Which is another reason why this appointment is so noteworthy and disappointing.) And to your second question, Heather’s official personal opinion was probably never on the record, and as the leader of the feasibility study, it shouldn’t be. And yet, it was no secret and if you spoke to her it was obvious and  SDOT ultimately endorsed the replace option over repair. Please keep in mind the technical advisory panel of outside engineering experts unanimously voted in favor of the repair we got. Shutting the boondoggle that the and feasibility study and CTF was, is probably the biggest Durkan admin’s accomplishment. 

    • Public employee cheerleader January 28, 2024 (8:18 am)

      Oh good lord, at what point do you think that Heather was a decision maker for the West Seattle Bridge?  She was a public information officer and understood the project, and what SDOT was doing.  Look at your own behavior to see if you perhaps antagonized absolutely everyone involved in this work, and were repetitive and unyielding.  Just because a whole organization doesn’t do what you want means that the person you were talking to was the monster.  Heather handled everything well with grace and, honestly, the fact she survived you all and didn’t move away shows her love of WS. 

  • K January 26, 2024 (10:21 pm)

    She handled the bridge debacle communication with much grace in my 1:1 interactions with her as well as her public statements. I wouldn’t have wanted that role in a million years. They way people personally attacked her is pretty telling of how imbedded car culture is here. 

    • Reed January 27, 2024 (2:18 pm)

      Spot on.

  • Admiral-2009 January 26, 2024 (10:32 pm)

    Wow – absolutely spot on with your comment, thank you!

  • Meeeee January 27, 2024 (5:52 am)

    Disappointing way to start building your team CM Saka.SMH

  • Tired of the BS January 27, 2024 (7:49 am)

    Oh, Rob… say it isn’t so! You’ve only been on the council for a few weeks, we don’t want to despise you this early in the game…

  • Blbl January 27, 2024 (8:07 am)

    This post should have had a trigger warning. Just seeing that name again is traumatic and threw me backwards three years. Wow is so right. What a way to say you don’t care one bit about your constituents. 

    • Reed January 28, 2024 (9:01 am)

      It is only triggering for those with car brain disease who were forced to look at their driving habits and how it may not fit in reality.

  • Westwood fan January 27, 2024 (10:50 am)

    Not the best hire given her checkered history with the WS bridge closure for 2.5 years and perceived tone deafness/arrogance. One of the problems with the City hiring freeze is that outsiders can’t be brought into the City ranks but rather existing employees just get recycled into new roles – sometimes means dumping problem staff off on other departments. Hope that isn’t the case here but it doesn’t get things off to a good start for Saka as our WS rep.

  • Sarge January 27, 2024 (10:54 am)

    She was a competent leader of a tough project. Not seeing the problem…in fact this seems like a great hire who will advocate for WS.

  • mem January 27, 2024 (11:13 am)

    These comments are NOT indicative of an “imbedded car culture”. These comments are our experiences with an arrogant, dismissive, and ignorant former city employee. Within the first few weeks of the bridge closure, she admitted that she still had never used the two exit points out of West Seattle. You’d think she could have hopped on one of those bikes she wanted us to use to at least see what she was talking about? No one thought she was personally responsible for the bridge closure but she  never listened to anyone with a differing opinion or valid question. Her responses were always defensive, argumentative and demeaning. Shame on CM Saka for not taking into consideration his constituents’ concerns about this controversial appointment. Read the room, she never did!!!

  • Derek January 27, 2024 (1:13 pm)

    Saka is awful, how did he win?

    • Rhonda January 28, 2024 (5:47 pm)

      Saka won by a landslide, Derek.

  • Kyle January 27, 2024 (1:19 pm)

    You would think Heather Marx personally broke the West Seattle bridge from these comments. Honestly, I thought she handled comms for a divisive project very well. She seems like a good hire given her background and skill set.

  • Bridging the Gap January 27, 2024 (2:24 pm)


    The City conducted a cost-benefit study indicating the replacement of the superstructure (everything above the supports) entailed less risk than a repair, although at a higher initial capital cost. The report is still available on the City’s website if you want to read it.

    Repairing the bridge is riskier than replacing it because repairing it required the introduction of forces at locations in the bridge not originally designed to accommodate them, which can be difficult and can, at least temporarily, weaken the structure. Keep in mind that design of the repair had not been completed when the cost-benefit study was done. The repair option would also likely entail higher long-term maintenance cost.

    In the end the study indicates the total “life cycle” costs for both options were similar, but repair was more likely to provide the greatest return on investment. The repair ended up being the best solution we could afford unless we were willing to toll ourselves to pay for replacing the facility.

    Heather had the unenviable responsibility of explaining all this to the public. I don’t remember Heather advocating for the bridge replacement option as strongly as your comment infers. You may have misinterpreted her commitment to transparent and accurate communication (her professional obligation) for arrogance.

    The repair, if properly maintained, has a good chance of lasting longer than the time frame anticipated in the cost-benefit analysis. Taking a little extra time to follow federal contracting requirements for the repair enabled us to get most of the repair paid for by others. And in the meantime the City spent a relatively small amount of money making some improvements to the traffic network, such as the intersection at Holden and Highland Park Way, that have become permanent improvements.

    Who do we have to thank for this excellent outcome? Heather and her team. They did a great job solving this incredibly difficult problem. All in the middle of a pandemic. We were lucky to have someone like Heather agree to get out in front of this headache, adequately investigate reasonable alternatives, and lead the decision making process required to get the job done. She was the right person, in the right place, doing the right things at the right time.

    • Wow January 27, 2024 (4:34 pm)

      Yes, we all know how proud the SDOT team is with how they handled this. It was so well handled, especially the part about $10 million being spent on a bridge design we probably won’t even need in 40 years, a contractor that when doing the “stabilization work” could have completed the repairs years earlier (and begged to do so), and all this to address a problem that even though the original design and engineering team knew this type of repair would be needed, around this time, left it undetected until the situation became emergent. And that why the SDOT director and the project lead (Marx) lost their jobs. Because they conducted themselves so poorly and left the people of West Seattle stranded while they played games looking for infrastructure bill handouts from the federal government. Pat yourselves on the back. You did what needed to be done all along after a huge unnecessary show. You recommended replace over repair despite the unanimous recommendation of the TAP and spent a ton of money doing it. This process is a perfect example of what is wrong with our government. 

      • wetone January 30, 2024 (2:37 pm)

        WOW, I agree with most of what you have mentioned. Not impressed with Saka’s choices. I will say if people did their own research on bridge project and not believed everything told by SDOT and city government they would be shocked. Most all the management from directors down involved with project are gone today. Some actually got jobs with the contractors involved with project, some quickly retired and one or two are now working for our Mayor. Bridge did need some maintenance work that SDOT failed to do, but bridge could have been left open for needed work. Social engineering at its best ;)

  • Mike January 27, 2024 (4:49 pm)

    Great job in very difficult position.  Quit sniping.

  • ABridgeTooFar January 27, 2024 (10:33 pm)

    It was hard to believe but that the bridge situation could have gotten worse and then Heather Marx came on the scene with abject disdain for West Seattle residents. Her disrespectful manner of engaging is pretty widely known so it’s obvious Sake has no interest in centering the needs of his constituents. Truly an abysmal way to start his term in office.

  • Public employee cheerleader January 28, 2024 (8:08 am)

    Absolutely asinine comments about a public employee that has always done her job admirably and with grace, is a community member and a valued parent advocate in our schools.  If you found her to be all these horrible things, you had better examine your own behavior.  Having lived with a WS public employee for many years, I have heard it is often YOUR approach and YOUR unwillingness to listen that is mirrored in your perception of these information officers.  Mike says it best “Great job in very difficult position. Quit sniping”.  Personally, I will add, SU and actually listen to what is being said and the data behind it.  Also, its your fault that so many of us couldn’t celebrate when the bridge opened and have a once in a lifetime opportunity to walk to its peak, thanks a lot Scroogy McScroogeface.

  • jw January 28, 2024 (10:33 am)

    Rob Saka you made your first bad move and I think you will regret it.  Listening to all the calls that Heather Marx was on that I could listen too, was all about getting more bikes on the road.  She kept talking about working from home in West Seattle and not needing vehicles. Now a Policy Adviser, my gosh, what will she be telling Rob Saka to do in her best interest and not ours.

Sorry, comment time is over.