Spokane County commissioners are expected to make a decision soon on a replacement for Shelly O’Quinn, who resigned to serve as chief executive officer of the Inland Northwest Community Foundation.
The county’s biggest challenge is an unsustainable structural budget deficit, and solving it will require pragmatic leadership and economic growth, not ideological purity tests or lectures on the U.S. Constitution.
State law says O’Quinn’s replacement must be a Republican, and that the remaining commissioners – Al French and Josh Kerns – are to make the choice. They’re also Republicans, so the pressure on them comes from inside their own party.
The finalists were determined in early August when a vote by precinct committee officers narrowed the field to Spokane County Treasurer Rob Chase, Mary Kuney, the county’s chief deputy auditor, and John Guarisco, an executive at a Spokane Valley marketing firm who sits on the board of directors of the Greater Spokane Valley Chamber of Commerce.
Chase was the top vote-getter, and his backers believe that entitles him to the job. But the commission should pick someone who will best represent the interests of the entire county. Either Kuney or Guarisco would be a better choice than Chase, who has a history of pursuing extreme political causes.
The county needs grounded day-to-day management.
In 2006, commissioners unanimously selected Ozzie Knezovich to replace Mark Sterk as sheriff, even though Knezovich finished second in the PCO vote. It turned out to be a smart pick. Since then, the party’s libertarian/constitutionalist wing has grown in influence. Chase was nominated by state Rep. Matt Shea, who said Chase would pursue an agenda that’s “pro-life, pro-gun and also pro-economic development.”
Issues like guns and abortion don’t belong on the county’s agenda, and Kuney and Guarisco are better candidates to pursue economic development, which is a particular passion of Commissioner French.
Sheriff Knezovich has been at war with the Shea wing of the Republican Party for its anti-law-enforcement rhetoric, and he fears Chase has a similar mindset. The sheriff has outlined his misgivings in his Spokane Talks Online podcasts.
Kuney, at the urging of Commissioner French, ran against Chase in the 2014 race for county treasurer. For this position, her supporters include O’Quinn, former commissioners Nancy McLaughlin and Kate McCaslin, state Sen. Michael Baumgartner and County Assessor Vicki Horton.
We hope she still has the support of French, because it would appear as if Commissioner Kerns is in Chase’s corner. A Kerns-Chase power bloc on the commission is worrisome.
In her role as auditor, Kuney has intimate knowledge of the workings of county departments. Her CPA background would serve her well in dealing with thorny budget issues. She has more government experience than Guarisco. Both have been business owners.
Kuney was an impressive candidate for treasurer, and we think she would be the best replacement for O’Quinn.