Will I stay or will I go?
That's what Seattle's top 21 nonelected city officials, in charge of everything from the Fire Department to Seattle Center, were wondering after Mayor-elect Greg Nickels requested they submit letters of resignation, thus giving him the option of replacing them with his own loyalists. Happy holidays to you all.
But the spirit of Christmas seems to be tempering Nickels' housecleaning zeal. He's already taking credit for clearing out Seattle Public Utilities director Diana Gale (water and trash) and Transportation chief Daryl Grigsby (roads and bridges), both of whom resigned shortly after outgoing Mayor Paul Schell's third-place finish in the September primary. "Why do you think they left?" says the new boss.
Plus, softhearted Mayor Greg kissed and made up with Police Chief Gil Kerlikowske, the target of a ton of campaign-trail sniping. "I have a newfound trust in the chief that comes from getting to know a person," a starry-eyed Nickels told reporters at last week's news conference. "And I suspect he has similar feelings about me."
If that wasn't enough to indicate that love is in the air at City Hall, last Friday Nickels filled the Seattle Public Utilities position with Deputy Mayor Chuck Clarke, a member of Schell's personal staff.
Still, Nickels himself admits that, in order to keep his campaign promise to make changes, one more department head must go. Here's a short list of the positions that might be considered plum assignments: Parks (Ken Bounds); Neighborhoods (Jim Diers); Human Services (Venerria Knox); and Design, Construction, and Land Use (Rick Krochalis).
While Nickels' tough guy act may prove more style than substance, some appreciate it just the same. One former city official says that retaining the previous mayor's appointees results in department heads that think they work for the city, not for any specific mayor. "Just the act of sitting down and having to [write the resignation letter] means you're acknowledging 'I work for this guy,'" he says. "It sends a powerful message of who's in charge—and that was lacking for the last four years."