With John Briehl, Tacoma’s director of the Human Rights/Human Services Department, soon to retire, City Manager Eric Anderson announced this week he has hired an interim department head: Longtime state government official Merritt Long.
According to a city press release:
Long has been a leader in both the public and private sector, including the director of the Washington State Human Rights Commission, on the State Board for Vocational Education and the Washington State Lottery, the chairman of the State Liquor Control Board and most recently a director of the UniBank of Lynnwood.
Anderson said this week the city is conducting a national search for a permanent director of the city department.
The HR/HS department provides and cooridinates public and private services dealing with a variety of issues, including homelessness, affordable housing, domestic violence and discrimination, among other things.
The city’s search for the new director won’t preclude Long’s candidacy, should he be interested, Anderson told city council members on Tuesday.
Long, who boasts an impressive professional biography, will start Aug. 23, working with Briehl to learn about the department. Briehl, the city’s longest tenured department head, has said he is stepping down after 36 years with the city to enjoy private life. He officially retires on Sept. 1.
The change in leadership comes at a time when the department is dealing with fallout from an ethics case against the city’s top victims advocate that could lead to her firing, and with questionable spending practices in her Domestic Violence Program.