If confirmed, Jesus Aguirre will make $190,000 as city Parks Director. His wife just got a job from the city that earns $130,000 a year.

If confirmed, Jesus Aguirre will make $190,000 as city Parks Director. His wife just got a job from the city that earns $130,000 a year.

In February, Mayor Ed Murray announced that Jesus Aguirre of Washington D.C.

In February, Mayor Ed Murray announced that Jesus Aguirre of Washington D.C. had won City Hall’s latest “nationwide search” to fill a top position. Murray had already tapped a good number of newcomers through those far and wide searches – Police Chief Kathleen O’Toole from Boston, Policy and Strategic Planning director Robert Feldstein from New York, transportation chief Scott Kubly from Chicago, and Fire Chief Harold Scroggins from Glendale, Calif., among them.

Aguirre certainly fit the out-of-towner bill at least. He was born in Mexico and raised in Texas, then educated in Arizona where he became a teacher. He also taught science in California and in 2007 moved with his family to D.C. to direct school operations there. More recently, he became D.C.’s superintendant of education.

As an experienced educator, Murray said, Aguirre was a natural to run, well, Seattle’s Parks Department. Besides tennis, softball and ping-pong, the mayor suggested, Seattle’s 6,300 acres of parks and 26 community centers should be places of learning, too.

That may not get the lawns mowed, the weeds cut or the trash picked up. But what will that matter if the kids are too busy tapping on their cell phones and laptops to smell the flowers?

Between education jobs, Aguirre did put in four years as D.C.’s parks director. Besides, there was a bonus in landing him to oversee Seattle’s parks rather than its schools. Murray had gotten the newcomer he hoped for – someone who “would really represent and reflect the values of this city,” he said, even if the guy never lived here.

It all seemed a bit upside down, and now there’s another tipping point, though the mayor denies he planned it. Last week, after a nationwide search of course, he hired Monica Liang-Aguirre of Washington D.C. to become the city’s new director of early learning. She’s a longtime educator and grade-school teacher, and the mayor fortuitously found her sitting next to Jesus Aguirre, her husband.

Together, the city’s newly imported power couple could earn $320,000 annually, not counting perks and expenses. Aguirre, if his nomination is confirmed by the City Council, will make $190,000 as director of the city Parks and Recreation Department. Liang-Aguirre, who is set to take over in July as Early Learning Director and help launch a new pre-school program, will make $130,000.

When Joel Connelly of SeattlePI.com asked the mayor’s office about the coincidence of separate nationwide searches finding the winning candidates living together, he was told it was just fate. Two independent panels made two independent recommendations to hire the two of them, said mayoral press secretary Jason Kelly.

“Both candidates were considered purely on their merits,” he insisted. There was “no connection between an offer to one spouse and an offer to the other.”

At least Liang-Aguirre is an educator filling an educator’s job, even if the couple did not publicly disclose that a charter school they once operated in Phoenix was closed down by the state. Called Tertulia Pre-College Community, the school lost its charter in 2010 due to poor academic progress, untimely audits and failure to comply with funding requirements. The couple by then had already departed Arizona for D.C. although Aguirre remained head of the school’s board. He blamed the failure on the school’s new management.

Aguirre, who went from a D.C. school job to the parks job and then back to a better school job when he was appointed supe by D.C.’s mayor in 2013, calls himself “not the typical parks and recreation professional.” Still, in his view “education and the work we do in parks and recreation are really complimentary.” He was passionate about parks, he added, especially now that Seattle had approved a new parks district with taxing powers.

He has his critics as both educator and parks director. Mulling his appointment as schools supe, D.C. council members criticized him for the Arizona school failure and lack of management skills, for example. He was nonetheless approved.

Given a four-year appointment, he left the D.C. job last year with $44,000 severance after the nation’s capital elected a new mayor. It might seem surprising he and his wife would end up in Seattle, given his pitch to the D.C. council in 2013 for the supe’s job. “We love this city,” Aguirre said, “and look forward to continuing to raise our children here and to staying engaged in education and public service for years to come.” Well, at least he won’t have to change the wording when he faces the Seattle council.

randerson@seattleweekly.comRick Anderson writes about sex, crime, money, and politics, which tend to be the same thing. His latest book is Floating Feet: Irregular dispatches from the Emerald City.


Talk to us

Please share your story tips by emailing editor@seattleweekly.com.

More in News & Comment

Carpenters union members peacefully strike on Sept. 16 in downtown Bellevue (photo by Cameron Sheppard)
Carpenters union strike on pause after “illegal picketing activity”

Union spokesperson claims wildcat protestors harrassed and threatened violence.

Puget Sound renters will need housing assistance
Puget Sound renters will need housing assistance

Nonprofits, activists are expecting greater need as workers are laid off.

t
Peter Rogoff to step down as Sound Transit CEO in 2022

Became CEO in 2016; search for replacement to begin

File photo/Sound Publishing
Ban on single-use plastic bags in WA begins Oct. 1

Shoppers will have the choice to pay for a reusable plastic or recycled paper bag.

file photo
Housing and finance insiders call for subsidized housing families can own, instead of rent

Advocates say increasing homeownership will strengthen the community, build intergenerational wealth

Map of proposed landfill expansion sites (screenshot from King County website)
Waste management expert knocks county’s plan to expand landfill

The waste management advocate said the decision to expand seems pre-determined despite assessment.

file photo
State employees including first responders sue state over vaccine mandate

The lawsuit filed on behalf of more than 90 plaintiffs claims Inslee’s order is unconstitutional.

Pixabay photo
Union carpenters to go on strike, expected to impact Eastside Microsoft projects

Members authorized strike after rejecting AGC offer for the fourth time.

file photo
The state’s hospitals face “unprecedented collapse” amid COVID uptick warn healthcare unions

Union spokeperson says understaffing was a problem even before the pandemic.

Gov. Jay Inslee talks about schools reopening during a past news conference. (Screenshot courtesy of TVW)
Masks required at big outdoor events; vaccine mandates expanded

Governor’s mask order takes effect Sept. 13.

Pixabay image
King County is looking for community members to help oversee law enforcement accountability

Community Advisory Committee for Law Enforcement Oversight is in need of applicants.