Addressing the crowd at his inaugural ball, Spokane Mayor David Condon said he will strive to be like Jim Chase, the popular mayor who led the city when Condon was a boy.
More than 400 people attended Condon's $75-a-plate Our Town Gala on Saturday night at the Lincoln Center in North Spokane. Proceeds will go to the Chase Youth Foundation, the financial arm of the youth commission that Chase fought to create when he was mayor in the 1980s.
Condon praised Chase for the stability he brought to the city as well as his gentle nature. He said the event, which was attended by many political, business and other leaders, raised more than $20,000 for the foundation.
Last year, former Mayor Mary Verner opted to eliminate the city's Youth Department, which oversaw the Chase Youth Commission. Condon supported the decision because of the city's financial problems. But Saturday, he vowed that the city would maintain a strong relationship with the commission even if taxpayer funding is much smaller.
"I am unwilling to let budget pressures push aside" the commission, he said.
Three Chase Youth commissioners addressed the crowd after a buffet-style dinner.
"Spokane is so unique in the way that elected leaders appreciate youth," said Hannah Sylvester, of North Central High School.
Condon is the first mayor to host a ball since Jim West, who hosted a ball at the Davenport Hotel in 2004. Condon said he will hold a fundraising gala every year he is in office.
In his speech, he promised to bring change but work collaboratively with those who didn't support his candidacy. (He noted that he lost the vote from the crowd that attended the Chase Youth Commission's annual candidates forum during his campaign.)
"If I've learned anything about leadership, it's that change is difficult but necessary for any organization," Condon said. "Through the next four years I'm going to need voices from every corner of this community."
Richelle McDermott, a Mount Spokane High School senior and the commission's chairwoman, said in an interview she's hopeful that the dismantling of the city youth department sparks more youth involvement, because the commission can no longer depend on adult staff members.
"It's really what the Chase Youth Commission needed," she said. "It shows that youth can actually handle themselves and that we are truly a youth-run organization."