As director, Catherine Lester will be responsible for the Human Services Department’s $129 million budget.
The Seattle City Council voted 9-0 Monday to confirm Catherine Lester as director of the city’s Human Services Department (HSD).
Mayor Ed Murray had appointed Lester to the position in February.
Lester, who worked in the Office of Health and Human Services for Ohio’s Cuyahoga County before landing in Seattle, became the HSD’s deputy director in 2011 and served as acting director in late 2013 and early 2014.
Councilmember Kshama Sawant backed Lester after expressing displeasure with the HSD’s not yet distributing $100,000 that the council earmarked last November for provisions and services at homeless encampments in 2015.
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Several people associated with the Nickelsville encampment currently located near the Chinatown-International District testified against Lester, complaining that the site needs some of the money to help pay for portable toilets and garbage collection.
Sawant said she would vote for confirmation anyway because Lester has agreed to meet with Nickelsville residents Tuesday and because Mayor Ed Murray, not Lester, is ultimately responsible for the city’s homelessness policy.
Representatives from the Seattle Human Services Coalition, the Alliance for Pioneer Square and several other organizations testified for Lester.
The HSD, which has a $129 million annual budget, has struggled with negative state audits and leadership turnover in recent years. Councilmember Mike O’Brien on Monday called Lester’s new gig “one of the hardest jobs in the city.”