A trio of prominent officials are leaving Mayor Muriel Bowser’s government in the coming weeks, including her often controversial transportation director, as her administration continues to cope with turnover in this decidedly rocky start to her third term in office.
Everett Lott will leave his post as director of the District Department of Transportation later this month, as will Elliot Tommingo, the head of the Mayor’s Office on Veteran’s Affairs, according to an email to D.C. government employees forwarded to Loose Lips by Bowser’s spokesperson. Kristi Whitfield, the director of the Department of Small and Local Business Development, plans to leave sometime in October. All three will pursue unidentified roles outside D.C. government, City Administrator Kevin Donahue and Chief of Staff Lindsey Parker wrote in the email Thursday.
Bowser had one addition to announce alongside these departures: She’s appointing Tiffany Crowe, a veteran of the federal government and several District agencies, as the new acting director of the Department of Licensing and Consumer Protection. Crowe takes over for Interim Director Shirley Kwan-Hui, who has led the agency since it was created in October of last year and has baffled employees after disappearing on unexplained leave for the past several weeks amid questions about her leadership.
These moves will force Bowser to find replacements at two of her most politically sensitive agencies in DDOT, which has to navigate contentious neighborhood disputes over bike lanes and other transportation construction and safety issues, and DSLBD, which oversees the city’s Certified Business Enterprise program for contractors seeking to do business with the government. These officials have also been with Bowser for the past several years—Lott joined DDOT in 2018, while Whitfield and Tommingo were hired in 2017—and their departures introduce more upheaval after ex-aide John Falcicchio’s sexual harassment scandal roiled Bowser’s cabinet.
Since October 2022, Bowser has lost three deputy mayors (counting Falcicchio), a police chief, a health director, and several key agency heads, with interim directors still occupying a variety of top positions. While it’s not unusual to see a mayor replace some agency leaders at the start of a new term, the frequency of these departures (and Bowser’s slow pace of hiring to replace those leaving) has raised the eyebrows of government insiders who spoke with LL.
Lott is probably the most high-profile of the agency directors to leave government; LL began hearing rumors about his potential departure on Tuesday. Multiple sources around the city’s transit advocacy community tell LL that Lott’s relationship with Bowser had soured in recent months, particularly in the wake of the mayor’s loss in a tussle with the Council over funding for the K Street Transitway.
He didn’t have many defenders among activists either, considering the agency’s uneven commitment to the city’s “Vision Zero” goals and its timid handling of several bike lane projects in the face of neighborhood opposition since Lott’s confirmation in 2021. Some were more forgiving, arguing that DDOT’s staff still managed to do good work when it could avoid the political machinations of its leaders, but rumors have floated for months among advocates that Lott was searching for an exit.
Whitfield’s departure also comes at a politically challenging time for DSLBD. The agency has faced repeated questions (and investigations from the Office of the Inspector General) about its management of its “Main Streets” program, and it will soon play a key role in deciding the future of the city’s sports betting program.
Whitfield and her deputies have argued for years that the main contractor running that program, Intralot, hasn’t been giving enough work to its locally based subcontractors. Intralot has countered that the city is forcing it to do business with politically connected firms that don’t perform the work they’ve promised; the dispute will come to a head next year, when the District will have to decide whether to renew its contract with Intralot or find a new vendor for the troubled program.
Crowe faces perhaps an even thornier situation as she steps in the door at DLCP. Employees at the new agency, created from the division of the Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs, have complained for months that Kwan-Hui’s management style has driven morale into the ground. Kwan-Hui has been on leave since June without any explanation delivered to staff, and it’s unclear whether she’ll remain with D.C. government or go elsewhere.
Donahue and Parker’s email said only that they “thank Shirley Kwan-Hui for her leadership and commitment” as interim director. They added that Crowe has extensive experience with both local and federal government; she worked for seven years at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau before joining DCRA in 2019, serving as both chief operating officer and chief administrative officer. She then took a job as associate chief technology officer, working under Parker, who led the city’s Office of the Chief Technology Officer before taking the chief of staff job following Falcicchio’s sudden resignation in March.
The Council will have to vote on Crowe’s nomination before she can officially become the department’s leader.