Spokane County Commissioner Todd Mielke will leave his elected position early to become the new CEO for Greater Spokane Incorporated, the area’s chamber of commerce.
The three-term Republican commissioner was chosen from a field of 20 candidates and a list of six finalists reviewed by a search committee at GSI, the organization announced Monday.
“We had an excellent candidate pool, and after thoroughly vetting all applicants, Todd rose to the top as the most qualified candidate,” said Christine Johnson, board chairwoman of GSI.
“Todd’s commitment to our region and his experience in tackling big community issues with a strong collaborative spirit makes him the right person for the job.”
Mielke is immersed in the details of many county issues and led the county’s effort past significant environmental and political hurdles to build a county wastewater treatment plant. Before the construction of the plant in 2011, county sewage was piped to the city of Spokane’s plant. He was instrumental in the creation of a regional animal control agency that included the city.
Mielke also was the main proponent of the county’s controversial decision to purchase the former Spokane Raceway Park at an auction and reopen it as Spokane County Raceway.
Steve Stevens, the former CEO at GSI, resigned in October after he replaced longtime CEO Rich Hadley in July 2014.
Mielke said he plans to submit a letter of resignation so the two remaining county commissioners can begin the process of finding his replacement. He is set to start in his new job in February.
“It’s bittersweet,” Mielke said of the change. “It’s been like home here, and a lot of people I’ve worked with are like family,”
Mielke said he is a big supporter of GSI’s policymaking role and its engagement with government officials, especially during annual visits to Olympia and Washington, D.C.
“GSI has done an effective role in that in the past,” he said.
He said he wants to extend GSI’s policy role to local issues as well.
Mielke described himself as a supporter of free enterprise and small businesses. He also said he has a series of ideas he wants to bring before the GSI executive committee for future changes.
Six months ago, Mielke failed to win the CEO opening at Spokane County when fellow Republican Commissioner Al French did not support his candidacy. Relations have been tense on the commission this year, reaching a low point when French questioned if Mielke and Commissioner Shelly O’Quinn were violating the open meeting law as part of “a relationship that’s outside of the Board of County Commissioners.”
Mielke and O’Quinn have denied violating public accountability laws and say they are not romantically involved.
French said he expects Mielke to step down from his commissioner position near the end of January and before he takes his new CEO post in February.
At that time, French and O’Quinn, also a Republican, will ask the Republican Party in Spokane to submit names of three candidates as a replacement. French said he has heard that as many as five Republicans are interested in succeeding Mielke.
French and O’Quinn would choose from among the finalists provided by the party. Mielke holds the District 1 seat, which represents northern Spokane County.
Mielke is nearing the end of his third four-year term on the commission. His seat will be on the ballot next year.
“I wish him nothing but good things in the future,” French said.
Prior to that, he served in the Washington Legislature. He also worked as a legislative lobbyist and a state Senate staff member.
To become commissioner, Mielke defeated former county Treasurer Linda Wolverton in 2004 and won re-election in a hotly contested race with former regional health director Kim Thorburn in 2008. His last election win in 2012 was over former Democratic County Commissioner John Roskelley.
Mielke will follow on a path similar to former Republican Commissioner Mark Richard, who left his county position at the end of his second term to take a job as president of the Downtown Spokane Partnership.