Murray Hires Top Staffer Who Worked for Cantwell, Kilmer—and Pro-Coal PR Firm
Mayor Ed Murray hires a new chief of staff who's worked for Maria Cantwell, Derek Kilmer, and Nyhus Communications, a PR firm that recently promoted a controversial coal terminal.
One common criticism of Mayor Ed Murray's picks to head up his new administration—including two deputy mayors, Hyeok Kim and Andrea Riniker, communications director Jeff Reading (Murray's former deputy chief of staff), and former Michael Bloomberg chief of staff Robert Feldstein, who heads up Murray's new Office of Policy and Innovation—is that it was a flat organizational structure, with no chief of staff to ride herd on Murray's top staffers and make sure they were all on the page.
Today, Murray announced that he's hired a chief of staff: Chris Gregorich, a former state senate Democratic campaign committee executive director, and the former campaign manager for both U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-WA) and now-Congressman Derek Kilmer (D-WA, 6), who ran for the redrawn 6th Congressional District when longtime representative Norm Dicks retired in 2012.
Most recently, Gregorich worked for Nyhus Communications, whose founder, Roger Nyhus, was a big Murray supporter during the campaign. Among Nyhus' clients is Move Forward Washington, a group that formed to promote a new coal train terminal that would facilitate the movement of coal between mines in Wyoming and Montana through Bellingham and on to ports in Asia—prompting dark rumors that Nyhus, and, by extension, Murray, was in the pocket of Big Coal. Murray has declared his opposition to the proposed coal terminal.
Most recently, Gregorich worked for Nyhus Communications, whose founder, Roger Nyhus, was a big Murray supporter during the campaign.
"I think that after being in office for a couple of months, [Murray] assessed that the internal operations of the office would be best filled by having someone who [has] that kind of bird's-eye view of all the people in the office," Reading said.
Murray's predecessor, Mike McGinn, took office with two deputy mayors (one of whom, Phil Fujii, resigned a little over a year into McGinn's tenure and was never replaced) and a chief of staff. McGinn's predecessor, Greg Nickels, didn't have a chief of staff but did hire a powerful deputy mayor, Tim Ceis, who filled that role.
Gregorich will make $140,000 a year, putting him on par with Reading but behind several other top staffers, including both deputy mayors, budget director Ben Noble, and OPI director Feldstein, all of whom make $170,000 a year.
Another criticism of Murray's upper echelon staff—the deputy mayors, the communication director—is that they don't come with city of Seattle experience. Gregorich, mostly a Democratic Party flack, including time as head of Murray's senate Democratic campaign committee, doesn't solve that perceived problem either.