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Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan, Mike Worden
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Report: Seattle’s $195K traffic czar to step down at end of December

Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan announcing Mike Worden's appointment in January. (Seattle Channel)

In September, Seattle City Council members had questions regarding the role of Mike Worden, who has been taking in a $195,000 salary as Seattle’s “Citywide Mobility Operations Coordinator.” Now, it would appear as though Worden will be stepping down as the city’s traffic czar at the end of the year.

No one seems to know what Seattle’s $195,000 traffic czar actually does

In January, Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan announced she would be creating a position for the retired Air Force general, to act as a liaison to regional transit agencies. Over eight months later, it became clear that few people outside the mayor’s office understood what exactly taxpayers were getting in exchange for Worden’s hefty salary.

“The salary is worthy of a high profile position, and as chair of the transportation department, it’s been extremely low profile,” Councilmember Mike O’Brien said, addressing SDOT in September. “It doesn’t mean that work’s not happening, but I am not aware of any of the work. It’d be really helpful for me to understand what is actually being done.”

In an email acquired by The Seattle Times, addressed to O’Brien and Seattle City Council President Bruce Harrell, Senior Deputy Mayor Mike Fong intimated that Worden’s role “was established as a temporary position,” and that he would be leaving the role soon.

“As such, barring unforeseen circumstances during SR-99 tolling or preparation for Connect 2020, Director Worden should be able to complete the foundational work … by the end of December, at which time his work with the City will come to an end,” said Fong. “We’re grateful he was able to offer his expertise to help Seattle in this challenging time.”

Rantz: As traffic gets worse, what happened to Seattle’s traffic czar?

At the time Worden’s role was announced, the mayor’s office didn’t imply that he would be serving in a temporary capacity.

In the past, SDOT told KTTH’s Jason Rantz that Worden has been “focused on implementing citywide process improvements to better address traffic incidents,” as well as riding “buses, light rail, or the sounder to talk to transit drivers and riders.”

Digging even deeper was C is for Crank’s Erica Barnett, who acquired pages from Worden’s schedule in August, a large number of which were left blank. Other sizable chunks totaling 285 total hours simply stated that he had been “out and about.”

Barnett also acquired a one-page summary from Worden detailing his various duties, some of which were unrelated to transportation altogether. That included the implementation of a “Lean/Six Sigma initiative throughout the city.”

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