Contrary to momentary belief, Jim Diers is not dead.
But according to Mayor Ed Murray’s office, between roughly 3:54 and 4:22 p.m. yesterday, about a half hour, he was. A press release from Murray’s office offered the following tribute to the former Department of Neighborhoods director:
“I’m very saddened by the death of Jim Diers. He was an innovator in bringing communities together and made a significant contribution to the foundation that makes Seattle special. His work with neighborhoods was passionate and progressive. His service to this city was unmeasurable. My thoughts go out to the Diers family. He will be missed.”
Trouble is, as a subsequent press release marked “CORRECTION!” from the mayor’s office would confirm, Diers was actually “alive and well.” As the Seattle Times reported, a mix-up in the mayor’s office confused Diers with Joe Dear, Gary Locke’s former chief of staff. Dear, unfortunately, did pass away yesterday. Jeff Reading, the mayor’s communications director, put it succinctly for the Times: “Dumb mistake on our part.”
Reached by phone this morning Diers tells Seattle Weekly he was between classes at the University of Washington School of Social Work yesterday afternoon, where he lectures, when he heard of his death. He says a couple concerned, yet vague, e-mails from friends let him know something was up. One, according to Diers, was just checking to make sure he was OK. The other e-mailer indicated they’d heard some disturbing news and were concerned.
“The first [e-mail] just seemed weird,” Diers says of the experience. “I thought, ‘Did I act weird or look sick or something?”
It wasn’t long before more than just a few concerned friends were reaching out, however. Since yesterday afternoon Diers says he’s been inundated with calls from friends, colleagues and especially the press. “It really hasn’t stopped,” he says of the hoopla surrounding his untimely fictional passing.
“It’s been kind of fun, actually.”
That said, in explaining to Seattle Weekly what it was like to be dead, and amid plenty of long periods of laughter, Diers is also quick to note that his story is not what should be the focus right now.
“It seemed really funny, except then I learned Joe Dear had died, and that was the reason for [the mix-up],” Diers says. “That really made me feel bad. He’s who should be getting the attention right now.”
Diers tells Seattle Weekly he hasn’t been reached by the mayor’s office with an apology yet. He admits he’s been busy teaching and living his life, though, and acknowledges that Murray’s team did leave him a voice mail yesterday afternoon around 4 p.m. saying, “Need to hear from you right away.”
Unceremoniously fired by the incoming Nickel administration back in 2001, Diers told the Times, “It’s been a long time since a mayor said nice words about me, so I do appreciate Mayor Murray’s sentiment.”