A year ago, Spokane Deputy Mayor Jack Lynch was embarking on what he would come to view as one of the biggest challenges of his career: investigating the death of a sewage treatment plant worker and helping city employees cope with the tragedy.
Now, Lynch faces what could be an equal, if not greater, test of his leadership skills.
The four-year Spokane public servant, and Spokane Mayor Jim West’s right-hand man, is leading the city while West takes a leave of absence for a few weeks amid accusations he molested boys and abused his power.
On Tuesday, his first day in the hot seat, Lynch attended a ceremony commemorating the fallen sewage plant worker, Mike Cmos, and tended to the day-to-operations of a city in turmoil.
From the get-go West rated Lynch’s skills highly enough that he retained him following the transition from former Mayor John Powers’ administration, later promoting Lynch to the position of deputy mayor.
Prior to taking his job in Spokane, Lynch was chief administrative officer for Montana’s Board of Pardons and then for 10 years as chief executive of Butte-Silver Bow County, its highest elected position.
Mike Kerns, a Butte County commissioner then and now, had nothing but praise Tuesday for Lynch.
“He does an excellent job. He’s a good man. He’s had lots of experiences with lots of different things,” Kerns said.
While there, he headed up Butte’s successful effort to take over a private water supplier to ensure clean water for the city.
He’s the first person in his family to go to college.
Lynch now makes $131,000 a year.
“I think that Jack has demonstrated that he’s a talented city administrator,” said David Mercier, Spokane Valley’s city manager.
Mercier said he doubts the city will skip a beat under Lynch’s leadership.
A political veteran, Lynch has survived challenges before, including several rounds of city budget cuts, and he’s no stranger to city investigations — both of others and himself.
The city of Spokane looked into his behavior in 2002 after City Councilwoman Cherie Rodgers accused Lynch of verbal intimidation.
The two argued in a hallway over a television interview in which Rodgers criticized Powers’ new “Welcome to Spokane” signs.
Lynch was cleared on the harassment charges, but an outside investigator called his behavior during the incident unprofessional.
More recently Lynch investigated and cleared Spokane Police Chief Roger Bragdon on charges that he wrongly dismissed a traffic ticket issued to the son-in-law of former Spokane County Prosecutor Don Brocket.
Lynch has also been the point man on city budget issues, coming up with creative solutions to save city jobs and manage a large revenue shortfall.
But Lynch said he considers his most significant accomplishment his 30 years of marriage and having “three wonderful kids.”
“What I’d like to be judged by is my marriage and my family,” he said.