In this 2019 photo, Gov. Jay Inslee (left) looks on as Suzi LeVine (right), then the state’s Employment Security Department Commissioner, talks to reporters at the Capitol in Olympia. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren,File)

In this 2019 photo, Gov. Jay Inslee (left) looks on as Suzi LeVine (right), then the state’s Employment Security Department Commissioner, talks to reporters at the Capitol in Olympia. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren,File)

Former state employment chief leaves Labor Department job

Suzi LeVine said the agency’s move to in-office work clashed with her family obligations in Seattle.

  • Paul Roberts, The Seattle Times
  • Wednesday, August 25, 2021 6:32am
  • Northwest

By Paul Roberts / The Seattle Times

Suzi LeVine, former head of the Washington Employment Security Department, has resigned from the Biden administration post she took less than seven months ago over concerns about the job’s impacts on her family.

Friday was LeVine’s last day as acting assistant secretary of the Employment and Training Administration (ETA), a Labor Department agency that oversees state unemployment systems, according to a Saturday post on LeVine’s LinkedIn page. Her departure, first reported Monday by Bloomberg Law, had been rumored last week.

LeVine, like other Labor Department officials, had been doing the job remotely. But the agency’s move back to in-office work clashed with her family obligations in Seattle, she said.

“With my daughter heading into her final two years of high school and an 83-year-old mom, relocating is not an option for my family right now,” LeVine said in her LinkedIn post. Several recent trips to Washington, D.C., helped LeVine “realize that my idea that I could commute weekly from Seattle is not viable,” she said.

LeVine described the decision to step down as “gut-wrenching.”

LeVine’s appointment, which started Feb. 1, came amid criticism of ESD for its handling of unemployment claims during the pandemic.

Early in the pandemic, the agency struggled under a wave of jobless claims as tens of thousands of people were laid off. Most other states saw similar problems. The ESD also came under fire, including by the state Auditor’s Office, for its handling of a fraud scheme that siphoned off roughly $650 million in state and federal unemployment benefits. Around $370 million has since been recovered from the scheme, which struck many other states.

LeVine’s appointment had also come amid heightened scrutiny around the politics of presidential appointments. LeVine has been a major player in the Democratic Party, and she and her husband, Eric LeVine, were big contributors to Joe Biden’s 2020 presidential campaign.

LeVine was U.S. ambassador to Switzerland and Liechtenstein in the Obama administration and served as deputy national finance chair, a volunteer position, for the Democratic National Committee, between 2017 and 2021, where she helped “obtain the resources to build the grassroots and technology needed for the DNC,” according to LinkedIn. She is also a former Microsoft and Expedia executive.

At ESD, LeVine’s allies says she helped revive a dysfunctional and demoralized state agency and used her technical and management expertise to modernize critical agency systems.

Her allies say LeVine faced a similar challenge at ETA, which had suffered high turnover and low employee morale under the Trump administration.

In her LinkedIn post, Levine said she had accomplished her main goals at ETA, including efforts to “help heal and rebuild the organization — especially through the transition in Administrations” and “keep the proverbial trains on the tracks — especially given the sprawling nature of ETA.”

A Labor Department spokesperson said, “The Department is grateful for Suzi Levine’s service and accomplishments during her tenure leading the Employment and Training Administration and while we are sorry for her departure, we support her decision to focus on her family in Seattle.”

LeVine’s position at ETA has been filled temporarily by Lenita Jacobs-Simmons, a longtime agency official, Bloomberg Law reported.

Talk to us

More in Northwest

X
Washington ferries to get $38 million to improve services

The money from the Federal Highway Administration will be used to improve the ferry service.

FILE - The Boeing 787 Dreamliner after its landing at Le Bourget airport, east of Paris, upon its presentation for the first time at the 49th Paris Air Show at the airport, Tuesday June 21, 2011. Federal regulators said Monday, Aug. 8, 2022, that they are satisfied with changes Boeing has made in the production of its 787 Dreamliner passenger jet, clearing the way for the company to resume deliveries to airline customers “in the coming days.” (AP Photo/Francois Mori, File)
FAA clears Boeing to resume deliveries of 787 Dreamliner

Federal regulators said they are satisfied with changes Boeing has made in the plane’s production.

RETRANSMISSION TO CORRECT STATE - This photo provided by the Washington State Department of Transportation shows smoke from a wildfire burning south of Lind, Wash. on Thursday, Aug. 4, 2022. Sheriff's officials are telling residents in the town of Lind in eastern Washington to evacuate because of a growing wildfire south of town that was burning homes. (Washington State Department of Transportation via AP)
Washington town told to leave due to wildfire, 10 homes lost

An entire eastern Washington town was being evacuated Thursday because of a growing wildfire.

An EA-18G Growler taxis down the airstrip on Naval Air Station Whidbey Island during the squadron’s welcome home ceremony in August 2017. (Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Scott Wood/U.S. Navy)
Judge rejects Navy environmental review of Whidbey Island Growler jet expansion

A judge ruled the Navy violated federal law in an environmental study of expanded Whidbey Island jet operations.

NO CAPTION. Logo to accompany news of Seattle.
Seattle ends COVID hazard pay for grocery store workers

The now repealed policy had required grocery stores to pay employees an additional $4 per hour.

Logo for news use, for stories regarding Washington state government — Olympia, the Legislature and state agencies. No caption necessary. 20220331
Washington judge overturns insurance rate credit scoring ban

The state rule prohibited insurers from using credit scoring to set rates for auto, homeowner and renter insurance.

A damaged Cathlamet ferry sits at the Fauntleroy dock in West Seattle, Thursday morning, July 28, 2022. Authorities say an automobile and passenger ferry crashed into a dock Thursday in Seattle, damaging the vessel. (Erika Schultz/The Seattle Times via AP)
Ferry in Seattle damaged after crash into terminal

Authorities say an automobile and passenger ferry crashed into a dock Thursday.

King County map logo
King County OKs free transit for youth

People age 18 and under will ride buses, water taxis and streetcars for free in King County starting Sept. 1.

U.S. Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., speaks at an event with President Joe Biden on April 22, 2022, in Auburn, Wash., south of Seattle. Murray is being challenged by Tiffany Smiley, a Republican from Pasco, Wash., in the upcoming election. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)
Patty Murray seeks 6th term in US Senate at new inflection point for women

Her Republican challenger Tiffany Smiley, a former nurse from Pasco, contends it is time for a new senator.

Steve Hobbs, who was sworn in as Washington Secretary of State, Monday, Nov. 22, 2021, at the Capitol in Olympia, Wash., poses in front of photos of the 15 people who previously held his office. Hobbs, a former state senator from Lake Stevens, Wash., is the first person of color to head the office and the first Democrat to serve as Secretary in more than 50 years. He replaces Republican Secretary of State Kim Wyman, who resigned to accept an election security job in the Biden administration. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)
Washington’s secretary of state draws several challengers

Sen. Steve Hobbs of Lake Stevens was sworn into the position last November. Now, he faces challengers.

Logo for news use, for stories regarding Washington state government — Olympia, the Legislature and state agencies. No caption necessary. 20220331
State Supreme Court rules that trust lands are to fund schools

The court rejected a claim by environmental groups that state trust lands should be managed to benefit all residents.

NO CAPTION. Logo to accompany news of Washington state.
Murders up, police staffing way down in Washington state

Violent crimes rose significantly in Washington last year while the number of available officers plummeted.