Seattle Mayor Durkan announces SDOT Director nominee

By: Editorial Staff Posted: 01/10/2019

Sam Zimbabwe selected as nominee after search process co-chaired by Chamber CEO

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In December, Seattle Metro Chamber CEO and president Marilyn Strickland joined Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan for the announcement of Sam Zimbabwe as the nominee for the next Director of the Seattle Department of Transportation. Marilyn co-chaired the SDOT Director Search Committee, which represented a mix of business, transportation organizations, labor, advocates, and community leaders. Marilyn's co-chair was Betty Spieth-Croll. 

Following is a release from Mayor Durkan's office announcing her selection: 
 
Seattle (December 18, 2018) – Mayor Jenny A. Durkan and community leaders announced today that she is nominating transit and transportation project delivery expert Sam Zimbabwe to be the next Director of the Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT), pending Council confirmation. Zimbabwe currently serves as the Chief Project Delivery Officer for Washington, D.C.’s District Department of Transportation (DDOT), a role that unites planning, traffic engineering, transit, and capital projects.

"Sam is the right person to help build a transportation system of the future, keep people and goods moving in Seattle, and deliver on essential projects for taxpayers. For decades, our region has been playing catch-up on its transportation needs. As more public and private mega projects lead to serious traffic disruptions downtown, the next few years will be critical for creating more safe, efficient, and well-connected transportation choices that make it easier and safer for residents to get around on foot, by bike, and via mass transit for decades to come. With a number of significant projects in the pipeline, I am confident Sam is ready to deliver on investments that will help us create a city of the future,” said Mayor Durkan.

“I am honored to have the opportunity to help keep Seattle moving, build a transit and transportation system for the next generation, and deliver on projects for the people of Seattle,” said Sam Zimbabwe. “Seattle is entering a new era of transit and transportation that will require effective delivery of capital projects along with a focus on giving more people access to safe options for walking, biking, and using transit.”

Zimbabwe’s nomination comes after an extensive public input and national search process that included candidates from across the United States. Following the departure of the previous director, Mayor Durkan oversaw an extensive review and reshaping of SDOT so the department could better deliver on projects. In May, Mayor Durkan announced a search committee that included nearly a dozen business, transportation, labor, and community leaders. The search for a new director of SDOT also included an extensive community outreach process. After conducting interviews with applicants, the Search Committee submitted their recommendations for finalists to Mayor Durkan, who interviewed the finalists earlier this month.

“We are excited about the Mayor’s selection and confident that Sam is the right person to help deliver forward-thinking, accountable leadership for SDOT and to deliver on the crucial Move Seattle projects. Seattle’s transportation decisions have an impact throughout our region, and this is a critical role at a critical time. In less than one month, Seattle will enter years of transportation challenges as the Alaskan Way Viaduct closes and several other transportation and construction projects converge. At the same time, our region is in the midst of expanding light rail, increasing bus service, and building safer bike infrastructure,” said Search Committee Co-Chairs Betty Spieth-Croll, Co-Chair of the Levy to Move Seattle Oversight Committee, and Marilyn Strickland, President and CEO of the Seattle Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce. “Through all of this, we will need to provide residents, businesses, and visitors additional options for moving in and through Seattle. We look forward to working with Sam for years to come.”

Before assuming the role of Chief Project Delivery Officer, Zimbabwe served as the Associate Director of DDOT’s Planning and Sustainability Division. Prior to joining DDOT, Zimbabwe was the Director of the Center for Transit-Oriented Development at Reconnecting America. In that role, he led planning and technical assistance projects focused on transit and transit-oriented development with local and national philanthropic foundations and public agencies around the country. He also has experience as an urban designer. He holds a master’s degree in city planning and urban design from the University of California, Berkeley, and a bachelor’s degree in urban and regional studies from Cornell University.