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Health Forces Lindow’s Early Retirement County Administrator Steps Down After Heart Attack

Tue., March 10, 1998

Friday nights were quiet at the home of Jim and Carol Lindow during his working days.

After a typical week, the county’s top employee was too exhausted for socializing.

It was a sign, Lindow says, he should have heeded, given his family history. Lindow’s father had his first heart attack at 52. His mother died of hypertension at the same age.

Knowing the risks, Lindow counted fat grams, kept his cholesterol low and maintained the body that earned him a spot on the Eastern Washington University basketball team in the mid-1960s. He whacked golf balls into the vacant lot behind his house to relieve stress.

But Lindow had no doubt what was happening on Jan. 24, when his left arm went numb during a workout. Like his dad, he was 52 when hit by a massive heart attack.

The quick response of paramedics and doctors at Holy Family and Deaconess hospitals was the only thing that saved him, everyone agreed.

Indeed, said Lindow’s cardiologist, the Lord had given him a second chance. The heart specialist left it up to Lindow to finish the thought, that he’d be throwing away the gift if he returned to the courthouse and continued overseeing 1,700 county employees as chief administrative officer.

If he’s feeling up to it, Lindow will return to work part time on March 23, mainly to say goodbye. His last day is March 31.

“I wasn’t ready for retirement because I love my job,” said Lindow, who intends to find part-time work. “This is premature.”

Premature, perhaps, but 30 years after Lindow began his career as a public servant. Despite his age, he qualifies for full retirement benefits.

A Rogers High School graduate and EWU psychology major (he later earned a master’s degree from Whitworth College), Lindow became a state probation officer in 1967. Four years later, he took the same position with the county, moving up through the ranks of the juvenile court system.

In 1988, Lindow took over scandal-plagued Geiger Corrections Center. An investigation earlier that year concluded that male employees routinely harassed their female counterparts.

Lindow fired 10 employees over the next two years, the toughest period of his career.

“Jim came in to assure that any inappropriate behavior would stop immediately,” said Gary Oberg, who worked with Lindow at Geiger and now is director of county corrections. “The example he set from the top made probably the biggest difference.”

By 1992, Lindow was running four county departments. Still, he “absolutely did not see it coming” in January 1995 when then-Commissioner Skip Chilberg gave him 10 minutes to decide whether he wanted to be chief administrative officer. Commissioners wanted to reassign their top employee and name a replacement all in one day.

The administrator answers only to commissioners and supervises the directors of all county departments. Lindow accepted the job on the condition that his assistant, Francine Boxer, make the move with him.

Boxer is one of the favorites to replace Lindow.

Lindow said his management philosophy is simple. Heeding a quote from Gen. George Patton, he lets people find their own path to county goals.

“They will surprise you with their ingenuity,” the general promised.

“They always do. Always do,” said Lindow.

A second quote cited by Lindow comes from Lou Rawls: “Listen to people older than yourself because they’ve done what you have to do and they’ve been where you have to go.”

A singer and a soldier. No management gurus. No $250-an-hour consultants. Yet county officials say Lindow is one of the most effective supervisors and problem-solvers they’ve seen.

Rosanne Montague, who retired last year as clerk for county commissioners, said Lindow never forgets to show appreciation for a job well done. A chrysanthemum growing in her yard was one of his gifts, on no special occasion.

County officials went to Lindow when they were agitated because they knew they’d walk away calm. A Christian and father of three, he seldom raises his voice.

“The moment I met him, I could see he was someone I was going to respect,” said Commissioner John Roskelley.

Lindow walks about four miles a day to rebuild his heart. By mid-day, he’s tired, as if every afternoon were Friday night.

Friends see him and say he looks terrific; too good to leave a job he enjoys when his youngest child is only 16.

Lindow said it’s a matter of priorities: He’s paying closer attention to his body now so he can see that daughter graduate from Mead High School and become an adult.

, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Color Photo

MEMO: This sidebar appeared with the story: Filling the job Spokane County commissioners will discuss today how to replace chief administrative officer Jim Lindow. They could promote a county employee or search for a qualified outsider.

This sidebar appeared with the story: Filling the job Spokane County commissioners will discuss today how to replace chief administrative officer Jim Lindow. They could promote a county employee or search for a qualified outsider.

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