Murray hires new Communications Director, head of Intergovernmental Relations

Benton Strong from the Center for American Progress in Washington, D.C. to relocate on August 1; mayoral staffer Chris Gregorich to become City’s new top lobbyist

Seattle Mayor Ed Murray announced two major personnel changes to his executive team today. Benton Strong, who currently serves as Managing Director of Communications at the Center for American Progress (CAP), a respected think tank in Washington, D.C., has been named the new Communications Director in the Mayor’s Office. Chris Gregorich, who currently serves as Director for Strategic Initiatives in the Mayor’s Office, will become the Director of the Office of Intergovernmental Affairs (OIR), replacing Nick Harper, who has announced that he is leaving his position for a new position outside the city with a regional focus.

“I am pleased to add the talents and deep experience of Benton Strong to our senior team in the Mayor’s Office,” Murray said. “He is one of the best and brightest, and will play an instrumental role in moving the City’s progressive agenda forward.”

Strong, a Seattle native who grew up in Yesler Terrace before earning a B.A. in Political Science from the University of Washington, is a skilled and experienced communications professional. Previously, he served as National Press Secretary for the Climate Action campaign, and as Communications Director for the Washington State Democrats during Gov. Jay Inslee’s gubernatorial race in 2012.

“I am really happy to be returning home to Seattle to join the administration of Mayor Murray. Whether it is leading on adopting a $15 minimum wage, developing a Grand Bargain between developers and affordable housing advocates to tackle Seattle’s housing affordability issues, or passing historic transit and transportation packages to ensure Seattle has the infrastructure in place to cope with growth, Mayor Murray has demonstrated time and again that he knows how to bring disparate interests together to build consensus around solving important issues. I look forward to helping further those efforts,” Strong said.

Strong will return to Seattle and start work with the City on August 1. In the interim, Jeff Reading, who served as Mayor Murray’s first Communications Director, will provide communication staff support on an eight week, part-time contract through Strategies 360, the public affairs firm where he is Vice President of Communications. The $20,000 contract will be funded by savings accrued through vacancies in the Mayor’s Office.

Strong will be paid a salary of $135,000 per year. Gregorich’s salary will be $145,000 per year.

“I’ve really enjoyed my time running the City of Seattle’s multi-tiered governmental outreach agenda, but I’ve been wanting to get back to my home in Snohomish County and this opportunity was too good to pass up,” said Harper, a former state legislator from Everett who will become Director of Strategic Affairs and Governmental Advocacy for the Master Builders Association of King and Snohomish County.

“Nick Harper is a dedicated and dynamic leader who leaves a legacy,” said Murray. “Nick is a trusted advisor, having served as my Deputy Leader in the Senate. He was instrumental in securing ST3 authority in the Legislature, in passing the largest statewide transportation package in Washington history, and in coordinating our first-ever West Coast coalition on homelessness. I’ll miss having him as part of my Administration, but he will remain a close friend and advisor. I wish him the best in his new position. The City is fortunate that, while we’re losing Nick, we have such an experienced problem solver and strategic thinker in Chris Gregorich available to replace him.”