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Opinion >  Column

Doug Clark: Al French’s deflection on Todd Mielke does taxpayers, county a favor

Hear ye. Hear ye.

By the powers of the rickety Clark soapbox, I hereby declare today – June 23, Year of Our Lord 2015 – to be Al French Day.

I do this in recognition of Spokane County Commissioner French being the fly in fellow Commissioner Todd Mielke’s chowder, the weevil in his sticky bun, the grit in his oyster.

However you want to phrase it, French played the spoiler on Monday and the taxpayers should all be grateful.

French refused to go along with commission colleague Shelly O’Quinn’s motion to name Mielke, aka “The Milkman,” as the county’s new CEO.

Deadlock. Stalemate.


“My chapter is done with the current makeup of the board,” Mielke was quoted as saying in our news story.

What a crybaby.

Now I know there are some cynics out there who will unload on me for extolling Mr. French at all.

They will point out, and rightly so, that this CEO charade stunk from the millisecond Mielke launched his quest to upgrade his paycheck by an additional $70 grand.

How ludicrous was it to have two Republican county commissioners deciding whether or not to give the third Republican commissioner a big job with a fat raise?

It couldn’t have been cozier – or more suspicious.

“It’s easy to lob grenades,” sniffed O’Quinn in our news story.

I know. And it’s fun, too.

Eeeeeeeeeee ….


So Mielke made his move to go after the $160,000 CEO post. Marshall Farnell, the county’s longtime CEO, held off retiring until a replacement was picked.

Meanwhile, the commission launched a candidate search that was laughably truncated.

Only 84 applied and – lo, and behold – Mielke emerged as the top pick with another candidate from Utah in second place.

Didn’t see that coming, huh?

If things couldn’t get any sleazier, they did. The final hiring selection was up to – you guessed it – Mielke’s two colleagues, Shelly and Al.

But here’s the thing we need to focus on.

Doing the right thing is a rarity in the political landscape.

When it happens, we need to give kudos where kudos are deserved.

I don’t give a hoot what guarantees Mielke thinks he had from French. Or what guarantees were given.

I only care about this: In the end, for whatever reasons, Al French had a come-to-Jesus moment.

“It was the right thing to do,” French told me Monday afternoon during a phone call. “I know I’ll take political heat. But we need to reset the clock” and start over.

French indicated that Round 2 will see a wide national search for a CEO and that professional headhunters will hopefully be used to attract the “best of the best.”

If Mielke “wants to participate in that then God bless him,” he added.

Throughout our phone call, French kept talking in a worried tone about the negative political blowback that he expects to get from his decision.

There’ll be some of that, I’m sure. But I believe the regular folks are appreciative of things like this, and it’s the regular folks who do most of the voting.

Not launching a national search last March was a mistake, French indicated.

“The quality of the candidates that we got were less than I was hoping for,” he said, adding that Mielke was simply “the last man standing.”

Not anymore.

“It’s still the right thing to do,” French repeated.

“We’ll see how this plays out. The county deserves to know that they got the very best.

“If nothing else,” French quipped about the political hot water he’s in: “watch for my name in the obits.”

Doug Clark is a columnist for The Spokesman- Review. He can be reached at (509) 459-5432 or by email at

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