Mayor Murray today nominated Catherine Lester as Director of the Seattle Human Services Department.
Lester, who has a long career working in human and social services is currently HSD’s Deputy Director, and will take over for John Okamoto, who Mayor Murray appointed as acting director in 2014.
“Catherine is a committed leader and innovative thinker, and we are lucky to have her,” Murray said. “Her leadership will be effective in getting our resources to the people who need them most in our community – those who are homeless, youth looking for summer jobs and survivors of domestic violence.”
“I am excited to serve as the leader of the Human Services Department. I am humbled by the commitment and passion demonstrated day in and day out by both the staff in this department, and the network of local service providers,” Lester said.
“The question is not whether or not we can afford to invest in our most vulnerable neighbors and communities; it is whether we can afford not to. I look forward to continuing to partner with staff and providers to make sure that everyone in Seattle can enjoy the quality of life we all desire,” she said.
“Catherine is the perfect choice to lead this Department. She has been the architect and driver of the Department’s efforts to be results and data-driven – getting the most out of our public investments focused on disparities,” said acting director John Okamoto.
“Catherine understands and knows our robust network of service providers. She is nationally recognized for her work, and she has the confidence of the employees of the Department. I am very pleased to hand over leadership to her,” Okamoto said.
Okamoto will remain at HSD as a special projects consultant, assisting with the transition and providing strategic guidance over several projects, including the homeless investment analysis.
Lester previously served as Acting Director of HSD from 2013-2014 during the transition between the Mayoral administrations, and was also Deputy Director of HSD between 2011-2013. Prior to coming to Seattle, she was Director of Cuyahoga Tapestry System of Care at Cuyahoga County’s Office of Health and Human Services in Ohio. Through her leadership in this role, child welfare recidivism improved and a new Continuous Quality Improvement process was implemented to maximize performance-based contracting for the county. Lester has a Master’s of Science degree in Social Administration from Case Western Reserve University and a Bachelor’s degree in Social Work from Ryerson University. She is also a 2013-2014 Annie E. Casey Foundation Children and Families Fellow, a nationally-recognized leadership development program focused on systemic changes to improve the lives of children and families in the United States.
HSD’s mission is to provide assistance to some of the most vulnerable individuals living in the city so that children, youth, and families can thrive. HSD will invest nearly $37 million this year on services and programs to help prevent individuals and families from becoming homeless as well as to help people who are homeless find stability and permanent housing. This year’s One Night Count saw a 21% increase of unsheltered homeless people in Seattle compared to last year, and under Lester’s leadership, Mayor Murray has set expectations for HSD to focus on data-driven and outcomes-based efforts to better align the city’s homelessness investments with innovative principles such as housing first and rapid re-housing strategies.
“As Seattle continues its generous investment in our community, it is important that our dollars produce outcomes for the clients of our many government, religious and non-profit programs,” Murray said.
The Seattle Human Services Department is one of the largest contributors to Seattle’s safety net, and provides $99 million in funding through 522 contracts to nearly 200 agencies that support Seattle’s most vulnerable residents each year.
HSD has an annual budget of $129 million and 320 full-time employees. Catherine will start effective Feb. 18, and her salary will be $151,000 per year.
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Today, Mayor Murray nominated Harold Scoggins as the next Chief of the Seattle Fire Department.
“As Seattle grows rapidly over the next 20 years, our fire service must continue to evolve to serve the city’s public safety needs,” said Murray. “Our department saves lives every day and our Medic One program remains a national leader in paramedic training for our fire fighters. Chief Scoggins has an outstanding track record and brings the right kind of experience to Seattle.”
Scoggins comes to the Seattle Fire Department from Glendale, CA. He joined the Glendale Fire Department 25 years ago as a fire fighter and rose through the ranks, serving at every level of the department. He was named chief in Glendale in 2008.
“I am honored to serve as the Fire Chief for the City of Seattle,” said Scoggins. “I look forward to working with the men and women of Seattle Fire Department to set its course for the future. My family and I are also very excited about the community and all it has to offer.”
The department currently has 80 vacancies. The mayor is directing Chief Scoggins to intensify recruitment of a diverse workforce of fire fighters, as well as ensure proper succession planning at lieutenant, captain and senior leadership positions in the department.
The Seattle Fire Department’s percentage of women fire fighters is 8.4 percent, which exceeds the national average of 3.4 percent, and the mayor is urging continued focus on the recruitment of qualified women.
“I look forward to working with Chief Scoggins, who will lead the best group of firefighters in the country – protecting us daily and providing emergency care that keeps us all safe,” said Councilmember Bruce Harrell, chair of the Council’s Public Safety, Civil Rights, and Technology Committee. “One critical aspect for the new Chief will be to complete implementation of the five-year strategic plan completed in 2012, setting goals for developing leadership abilities of Fire Department employees at all levels, helping employees develop and improve, health and safety, ensuring a diverse and inclusive workforce, fostering community outreach and partnerships, and maintaining equipment and technology critical to the department.”
The Seattle Fire Department has more than 1,100 employees and an annual budget of $178 million. Fire fighters at 33 stations serve 640,000 residents and respond to more than 88,000 alarms each year.
Today, more than 80 percent of fire emergency responses are medical in nature, a trend that is expected to grow. In January, the department added a new aid unit downtown with 10 additional firefighters. The mayor is expecting further recommendations regarding the department’s structure from the new chief.
Scoggins served for five years as a fire fighter in the U.S. Air Force before joining the Glendale Fire Department in 1989. He was promoted to Fire Engineer in 1996, Fire Captain in 1998 and Battalion Chief in 2003. In that position, he was responsible for recruitment, hiring and training of the department’s fire fighters. In 2007, he was appointed Deputy Fire Chief, before being named Chief of the Glendale Fire Department a year later.
Scoggins is a past-president of the Los Angeles Area Fire Chief’s Association. He taught Fire Science as an adjunct professor at Mt. San Antonio College and El Camino College. He has served on the boards of several non-profit organizations, and is an active community volunteer.
Scoggins earned his associate’s degree in Fire Technology from Glendale Community College in 1994, a B.S. in Fire Administration from California State University Los Angeles in 1996 and a Master of Public Administration from California State University Long Beach in 2007.
Scoggins replaces Seattle Fire Chief Gregory Dean, who retired at the end of 2014 after a decade at the helm. Interim Chief Michael Walsh, who first joined the department in 1971, stepped in to fill the role for the first part of 2015.
“I certainly welcome Chief Scoggins as the new chief of the Fire Department,” said Interim Fire Chief Michael Walsh. “We pledge our full support to ensure a smooth transition.”
“We are looking forward to working with our new fire chief,” said Kenny Stuart, President of Seattle Fire Fighters Union, Local 27. “Seattle fire fighters need strong, high-quality leadership to meet the increasing challenges in today’s modern fire service, including increased call volume, a growing city, significant training demands and the constant threat of cancer and heart attacks for fire fighters.”
Chief Scoggins’ first day at the department will be April 1. He will be paid an annual salary of $205,000.
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Mayor Murray issued the following statement today after a U.S. District Court judge issued an injunction on President Obama’s immigration executive orders:
“Like many, I am disappointed by yesterday’s decision by the Texas district court and am confident that as it goes through the appeals process, the President’s policy will be, in the end, upheld. I believe that President Obama acted within the scope of his executive powers when he proposed expanding protections for the millions of immigrants who are here working and building a better life for their families. This is the right thing to do. It will keep families together, allow young immigrants like DREAMERS to get a college education and grow our economy. This is the right thing to do for our nation, and Seattle.”
Earlier this month, Mayor Murray joined 33 other mayors in signing onto an amicus brief in the case of Texas vs. United States. The Mayors come from cities that account for approximately 28.2 million people, including 7.5 million immigrants. Seattle Police Chief Kathleen O’Toole also signed a similar amicus brief with chiefs of police and sheriffs from 27 other cities and counties across the country.
Late last year, Mayor Murray joined Rep. Adam Smith and immigrant rights advocates at a rally outside the Federal Building, on the eve of Obama’s executive action, to demand further steps toward immigration reform. Mayor Murray also participated in an Immigration Summit convened by Mayor Bill de Blasio, which brought together more than 20 Mayors to New York City to discuss local strategies for immigrant integration. In late December, he spoke to several hundred participants of a community education event about administrative relief organized by leading immigrant rights organizations.
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