HSD Director Catherine Lester resigns

Today Human Services Director Catherine Lester announced that she is resigning so that she can move to Toronto to be closer to her family.

Mayor Durkan appointed Deputy Director Jason Johnson to be acting Director. She said that she intends to wait until May to decide how to approach hiring Lester’s full-time replacement, once the regional “One Table” coordination effort on homelessness provides recommendations.

Lester has been a dedicated public servant for many years, and deserves our thanks for that. She was as been the driving force behind the Pathways Home plan for addressing homelessness, as well last year’s RFP process to re-bid the majority of the city’s contracts for homelessness services for the first time in a decade.

That said, I have criticized Lester in the past for being less than transparent about the workings of her department and exactly what they are spending all that money on (over $170 million this year). For its part, in its oversight role the City Council has demanded little from HSD in terms of accountability. Hopefully Durkan will replace her with someone who has a stronger commitment to transparency.

In his role as deputy director, Johnson has overseen much of HSD’s homelessness response, coordinating with SPD, FAS, SPU and other city departments.