Seattle Mayor-elect Bruce Harrell appointed the first batch of leaders in his administration Monday, a group that includes his niece as senior deputy mayor.

Harrell shared a preview of the administration’s structure in a news release Monday, announcing three deputy mayors — one of them a new position to oversee housing and homelessness:

  • Senior deputy mayor: Monisha Harrell, Harrell’s niece and campaign manager, board chair for Equal Rights Washington, and a member of the National LGBTQ Task Force Action Fund
  • Deputy mayor of housing and homelessness: Tiffany Washington, a current deputy mayor
  • Deputy mayor of external relations: remains unfilled through January as Harrell consults constituents

Harrell also named Tim Burgess, former Seattle councilmember and interim mayor, as director of strategic initiatives. He is a former Seattle police officer and detective, and previously worked public relations for SPD.

Bruce Harrell surrounds himself with familiar faces as he begins building the ‘brain trust’ that will help him lead Seattle

In a statement Monday, Harrell said he will set a new tone for Seattle and deliver on positive change.

“Our announcement today makes clear that my administration will be centered on competency and urgency,” Harrell said. “My administration will combine ambitious vision and bold, progress-driving ideas with the experienced leadership needed to take action and hit the ground running.”

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When asked about the hiring of Monisha Harrell, the mayor-elect’s spokesperson Jamie Housen said her track record justified the hire, calling her one of the most effective advocates for police reform and public safety in Seattle and in Washington state.

“With immediate and long term public safety priorities, voters spoke loud and clear that they want leadership in the Mayor’s Office with the experience and commitment to ensure safety for all communities, create a more effective SPD, and drive innovations like a new kind of unarmed, culturally competent officer; Monisha Harrell has the proven record to deliver on that vision,” Housen said in an email.

Under the city’s ethics code, a niece is not considered immediate family. Still, Bruce Harrell filed a “disclosure of appearance of conflict or impaired judgement” with the city on Friday.

“While she is my niece, I have no financial dealings with her, she is not financially dependent on me or my wife,” he wrote on the form, adding that she will be evaluated independently regarding performance and compensation.

Monisha Harrell also resigned from her post as the court-appointed deputy monitor of Justice Department-mandated reforms to the Seattle Police Department last month, according to Housen.

Monisha Harrell was not available for comment Monday.

Bruce Harrell’s other appointments include several current and former city employees. Adiam Emery, director of Seattle Department of Transportation’s transportation operations division, will join the administration as chief equity officer. Current City Council Central Staff Deputy Director Dan Eder will serve as Harrell’s director of policy.

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Vinh Tang, an adviser for the city’s IT department, will serve as his technology and performance adviser, and Director of Small Business Development Pedro Gómez was named director of external affairs. Current Innovation and Performance Interim Director Julie Dingley will serve as interim director of the city’s budget office, replacing current budget director Ben Noble. Seattle University professor Marco Lowe, who worked for the city under mayors Greg Nickels and Mike McGinn, will serve as chief operations officer.

Others are new to City Hall, including former Seattle/King County NAACP President Gerald Hankerson, who will serve as external affairs liaison.

Last month Harrell announced 12 advisory transition committees, appointing nearly 150 people from the areas of business, entertainment, environment and education to help set the agenda for his administration.

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