Seattle Mayor Ed Murray is losing his communications director, Jeff Reading, after less than a year in office.
Reading, resigning effective Dec. 12, has been an important aide for the new mayor, accompanying Murray in public and mediating between his boss, who has a reputation for losing his cool, and the press corps.
“It’s the oldest cliché in politics, but I have a 2 1/2-year-old daughter and I want to spend more time with her and my wife,” Reading said.
“It’s tense hours, it’s long hours,” he said about the communications director post. “Even when you’re home you’re half-engaged with what’s going on on your phone or email … I just, at the year-point, am making the decision that I want to be able to be home and when I’m home, present.”
The veteran political consultant, a 1998 Evergreen State College graduate who worked closely with Murray when he was deputy chief of staff for the Washington State Senate Democrats and Murray was a state senator, was previously communications director for the senate Dems and worked in public relations at Microsoft.
Reading is leaving to become vice president of communications at Strategies 360, a Seattle-based business and public policy firm founded by Ron Dotzauer and Eric Sorenson with offices in 10 states and Washington, D.C.
“While we’ve had a helluva year of accomplishments in the Mayor’s Office since January, I wanted to let you know that I’ve made the very hard decision to move on,” Reading said in an email Tuesday.
In the email, Reading points out that Murray has been on a roll of late. The mayor helped broker a new minimum wage law that made national headlines, won voter approval for several initiatives he supported, including a new taxing authority for parks and a new city-subsidized preschool program.
But now Murray faces the challenge of finding someone experienced enough to replace Reading and forging ahead without an aide who has helped keep the mayor on an even keel.
The mayor’s communications staff has been a source of tumult. His first press secretary, Rosalind Brazel, has filed a $1 million claim against the city accusing Murray of discrimination. The mayor has denied the allegations.
Brazel, an African-American woman, was let go in May after being reassigned in March. Reading was her boss and is involved in her claim. Her replacement, a white man, was appointed in August with a salary of $100,000 a year, $5,000 more than Brazel made.
Reading says his departure isn’t related to Brazel’s claim and isn’t a sign that Murray’s office is in crisis.
“I consider the team the mayor has assembled the highest-performing team I’ve ever had the privilege to work with,” he said. “He’s well served by them and the city is well served by his office.”
Reading’s email in full:
While we’ve had a helluva year of accomplishments in the Mayor’s Office since January, I wanted to let you know that I’ve made the very hard decision to move on.
We frequently hear about how this is the most activist year of any Seattle mayor in living memory, and when you look at the success the Mayor has had in implementing his agenda, it’s hard to disagree: passing the $15/hr minimum wage ordinance, securing sustainable parks funding, appointing a great chief of police and making significant progress on police reform, brokering a deal to allow rideshare companies to thrive, increasing transit service in the city, creating a cabinet-level department of education, establishing the Seattle Preschool Program…to name just a few big wins.
The public has responded with strong support, including decisive approval of three ballot measures and the highest mayoral approval ratings in decades. Mayor Murray is definitely on a roll, and it’s been a great honor to have been a small part of it all. None of it would be possible, of course, without all of your hard work, talent and dedication. I will miss working with you all very much in this role, and hope that our paths cross in my new one.
I am very pleased to report that I am moving over to Strategies 360, effective Dec.15, as Vice President of Communications. My last day in the Mayor’s Office will be Dec. 12, and will remain hard at work in my current role in the meantime.