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Monday, July 13, 2020  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Spokane hires new county engineer

The state’s largest county road system has its next chief.

The Spokane County Commission on Tuesday selected Mitch Reister as the county engineer, who oversees more than 2,500 miles of roads. Reister replaces Bob Brueggemann, who retired earlier this month after working for the county since 1977 and holding the top engineering job since 2006.

Reister, 41, comes from Chelan County. The Washington State University graduate said he’s happy to return to Spokane after living in Wenatchee since 2005. He and his wife spent two years on the South Hill while he was attaining his master’s degree in environmental engineering.

He inherits a department with 40 fewer employees than in 2009, though spending will increase by about $7 million over last year to $51 million. He said all agencies are being asked to do more with less, including transportation and roads.

“We need to look at preserving the system,” Reister said. “We need to look at different ways of doing that.”

Reister said he will continue to push chip sealing roadways in Spokane County. The process involves spraying superhot asphalt onto roadways, then spreading a layer of rock chips that is rolled flat. Chip sealing is seen as a cost-saving measure over the traditional method of applying an asphalt overlay, Reister said.

Spokane County has developed a three-year plan to chip seal certain roads. First up this year is a portion of Monroe Road between Deer Park and Wild Rose Road, a portion of Hangman Valley Road, and Cheney-Spangle Road east of Turnbull National Wildlife Refuge, among other areas.

Commissioner Al French said he supported Reister because of his glowing review from elected officials in Chelan County.

“He left Chelan County in great shape,” French said. Reister praised Spokane County’s road system, saying it rated well compared to other systems in the state.

He said the Engineering Department should do more to educate voters on how much of their taxes go to road construction, and how important that money is for maintenance to help prevent calamities, like recent high-profile bridge collapses in Western Washington and Minnesota.

“I think that’s important, since we’re stewards of those funds,” he said.

Reister will earn an annual salary of $106,426, county officials said.

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