By Jason Cruz
Northwest Asian Weekly
Mayor Mike McGinn made it clear in a recent telephone interview that the resignation of Deputy Mayor Philip Fujii was a personal decision made solely by Fujii for health reasons.
On April 19, the Mayor’s office announced that Fujii had submitted his resignation, citing the need to care for a shoulder that needed surgery. At the beginning of his term, McGinn appointed Fujii as deputy mayor.
Fujii underwent shoulder surgery the week before his resignation. Though asked, McGinn did not directly comment on whether Fujii had requested a medical leave of absence or whether he was offered a leave to remain in his position. In his letter of resignation, Fujii wrote that it would be impractical to take an extended medical leave to recover from surgery.
McGinn said that there is no timeline set for appointing a new deputy mayor, citing the importance of the position. “We are spreading the work to other senior officers of the Mayor’s office,” said McGinn, of Fujii’s existing workload.
According to the City of Seattle website, Fuji was the deputy mayor of operations whose work duties included handling departmental regulations and internal affairs.
As for whether McGinn will replace Fujii with another Asian American, McGinn said he it is not his intention, but he isn’t ruling it out, either. “We will look at all qualified candidates,” he said. “I don’t think ethnicity will be a determining factor.”
In a phone call to Fujii, he declined to comment on his resignation and indicated that he agreed with Mayor McGinn’s comments in the official news release on his resignation.
Although Fujii did not provide any additional comment on his decision, resigning as deputy mayor less than six months into the position has led some to speculate that there might have been internal issues that caused him to leave, rather than a physical injury. While Fujii’s surgery required an extended medical leave, McGinn is noncommittal in setting a timeline in choosing Fujii’s successor.
The mayor was quick to dispel any rumors of discord between himself and Fujii.
“I would have loved for Phil to stay on,” McGinn said. “If he wanted to return, we would be happy to have him. [But] he felt the need to resign and attend to his personal issues.”
McGinn and Fujii first met when Fujii worked for the city’s Department of Neighborhoods and McGinn was active with the Greenwood Community Council. “We’ve known each other well,” McGinn said. Fujii also assisted McGinn during his mayoral campaign and was a part of the transition team upon McGinn’s election win last November.
McGinn stated that he did not explain the duties of the position prior to Fujii’s appointment as deputy mayor. “He had 24 years of city government experience. He understood what the job was.”
McGinn thinks that Fujii will take time to recover from his health issues and will return to work in some capacity.
Fujii’s resignation makes him the second employee to leave McGinn’s staff. In February, senior adviser Chris Bushnell resigned after it was discovered that he had lied about his academic credentials.
However, McGinn is not worried about the early departures. “The turnover is consistent with the transition.” He also stated that he was not worried whether the departures would create a bad public perception of the administration. “I think when you put together a team, there will be some turnover.”
Notwithstanding the personnel changes, McGinn said, “[I am] very proud of building teamwork within city government.”
He points to the Youth and Families Initiative as one of the early successes of his administration. The initiative identifies challenges youth and families face and stives to collectively mobilize toward solutions so that all children in Seattle can succeed. The mayor identifies how they have worked closely with ethnic communities and minority groups in finding out how to provide solutions for challenges that children face. ♦
Read Publisher Ng’s related blog entry about McGinn and Fujii on page 15.
Jason Cruz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.