This week, Phil Fujii dropped a bomb. He announced that he is resigning from his position as Seattle deputy mayor.
The reason he cited in a letter to Mayor Mike McGinn was that he did not think it was practical to take an extended medical leave. Fujii underwent shoulder surgery last Friday. According to Fujii’s assistant, it will take him two to three weeks to recover.
“I’m sorry he made this decision,” said Kip Tokuda, a former Washington State Representative and a transition facilitator for McGinn. “He will create a huge void in the administration. He is the most respected and most thoughtful man. He is very close to the city. But he must base his decision on family, and I respect that.”
According to an inside source, McGinn and Fujii have talked about his resignation extensively before they came to the decision.
In the Seattle Times, McGinn said, “I will miss Phil because of his judgment and his passion for the city.”
However, some Asian Americans — supporters of Fujii as deputy mayor — have expressed disappointment as well as skepticism. Some wonder if shoulder surgery is the real reason Fujii is quitting. Most of all, many are lamenting the impression that Asian Americans who make it to the upper echelon of a company or organization seem to quit, retire, or move on to other projects quickly.
People are left wondering why. Local blogs are buzzing with rumors and speculation on Fujii’s departure.
Fujii was arguably the most experienced member in the city’s affairs among McGinn’s top staff. Before becoming deputy mayor, Fujii was an executive at Vulcan. Prior to that, he was a leader of the Seattle Department of Neighborhoods for 25 years.
McGinn has said he will appoint an international transition team this week for selecting Fujii’s replacement.
We surely hope McGinn finds another qualified person of color. It’s not as if our city government is lacking in Asian Americans with experience that could fill Fujii’s shoes. We just need to be given more chances. It’s very sad that an Asian American got to the top and then left only after a few meager months. We want McGinn to take this opportunity to make lemonade out of lemons.
We have a large number of motivated, ambitious entrepreneurs and professionals that would run with the ball if given the chance. The mayor has done a good job in building diversity within city government thus far, and we hope he continues this. ♦