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UPDATED Tacoma: Fill-in head for Human Rights/Human Services Dept. backs out; new interim director named

Post by Lewis Kamb / The News Tribune on Sep. 9, 2010 at 6:25 pm with No Comments »
September 10, 2010 10:31 am

City spokeswoman Karrie Spitzer provided more details this morning about why Merritt Long decided to step down as interim director for the Human Rights/Human Services Department after serving for less than two weeks.

“From what I understand, basically the demands and challenges were more expansive than he originally anticipated,” Spitzer said. “And based on that, he decided to step down.”

The city’s HR/HS employees received the news about Long’s quick departure earlier this week via email from assistant city manager Rey Arellano, who also cited the somewhat ambiguous reasons about “demands and challenges.” Here’s Arellano’s email:

From: Arellano, Rey
Sent: Tuesday, September 07, 2010 9:42 AM
To: DIST- ALL Human Rights & Human Services (HR&HS)
Cc: Anderson, Eric; Long, Merritt; Linda Villegas Bremer (LVillegas.Bremer@gmail.com)
Subject: Interim HRHS Director
Dear Members of the HR/HS Department Team,

I’m writing to inform you of a change in plans for interim management of the Human Rights and Human Services Department. Merritt Long announced last week that, after careful consideration, he has decided to step aside as the Interim Director of the department. Over the past two weeks, Merritt decided that the demands and challenges of the position are more expansive than he originally anticipated, and that it was in the best interest of him and the City that he step aside.

I’d like to thank Merritt for his commitment public service in stepping forward in the first place to serve as interim director, as well as his judgment and courage in coming to his decision.

Accordingly, the City reached out to find a new Interim Director for the HR/HS Department, and I am pleased to announce this morning that Linda Bremer has accepted an offer to serve in that capacity while the City continues the search process for a permanent department director.

Linda is a veteran manager who served as the Director of Washington’s General Administration Agency and as a member of the Governor’s Cabinet until earlier this year, when she was appointed as a member of the state’s Liquor Control Board. She brings a breadth and depth of experience that will serve the department and its customers well. Linda begins her appointment on September 9, 2010.

Please join me in welcoming Linda to the City of Tacoma as we continue through this transition time for the Human Rights and Human Services Department.


Long had taken the interim director’s role on Aug. 23, working with director John Briehl for a week to learn about the department before Briehl retired on Sept. 1.

Long recommended Linda Bremer for the interim director’s job, Spitzer said. The city hopes to fill the position permanently by December, she added.

Original post:

Not many details were given, but the city issued a press release tonight noting that Merritt Long, the expected fill-in replacement for recently retired HR/HS director John Briehl, has had second thoughts.

Long no longer will be taking the job. Instead, City Manager Eric Anderson has tapped veteran state official Linda Bremer to take on the role. Here’s the full press release issued tonight:



Sept. 9, 2010


Karrie Spitzer, Community Relations, karrie.spitzer@cityoftacoma.org, (253) 591-5790

Linda Bremer newly appointed interim Human Rights and Human Services director

City Manager Eric Anderson recently announced that Linda Bremer will assume the interim Human Rights and Human Services director position while a nationwide recruitment process to fill the position permanently is underway. Bremer’s appointment was affective today, Sept. 9, 2010.

Bremer is a veteran manager who served as the Director of Washington’s General Administration Agency and as a member of the Governor’s Cabinet until earlier this year, when she was appointed as a member of the state’s Liquor Control Board.

After careful consideration, former interim director Merritt Long, decided to step down.

Anderson drew praise from several Tacoma City Council members last month when he announced Long would accept the interim post (I wrote about the announcement here).

Anderson also indicated Long could become a candidate for the permanent gig. The city is now conducting a nationwide search to replace Briehl, the longtime director who recently retired after 36 years with the city.


The vacancy at the top of the HR/HS department comes amid difficult times, including the recent firing of longtime Domestic Violence victim’s advocate China Fortson and the fallout from her case.

It is unclear whether the city will seek to replace Fortson, who helped launch the city’s DV Program in 1998 and was the city’s only full-time victims advocate. Anderson recently told me he was leaving the decision of whether to fill Fortson’s slot up to Long.

I’ve put some calls out tonight for more details.

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