Jonathan Mallahan, the City of Spokane’s top official overseeing social services, will step down from the job to take a position at Catholic Charities, the city’s largest nonprofit serving homeless people.
“It helps align my personal passions, and personal faith, with a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to work for an organization that has a great record of making awesome changes,” Mallahan, 33, said in an interview Tuesday.
Mallahan is the director of the city’s Neighborhood and Business Services division, and has served in Mayor David Condon’s cabinet since Condon took office in 2012. The Gonzaga University graduate and Whatcom County native first took a job as an intern in the city’s Office of Neighborhood Services, according to a news release from the city announcing the departure. Two years later, Mayor Mary Verner named Mallahan to head that office.
With Mallahan in charge, the division has seen increased city investments in homeless sheltering programs and this summer found permanent housing for more than 100 homeless young people as part of a statewide initiative.
The move follows several controversial city decisions on homeless services implemented by Mallahan’s department, including ending Blessings Under the Bridge’s lease to serve food to homeless people in a city-managed lot under Interstate 90, and laying rock under the freeway in an effort to discourage camping.
Mallahan said those decisions, which he believed were the right choices for the city, did not influence his choice to join Catholic Charities.
“I believe the city was fulfilling its role,” Mallahan said. “The fact that not everyone agreed with those decisions, certainly has nothing to do with this. I think those were robust conversations in the community that needed to take place.”
At Catholic Charities, Mallahan will be the vice president of housing. That job is currently held by Monique Kolonko, who also oversees senior and food services.
“We’re just really excited and feel blessed to have someone of this caliber coming to Catholic Charities,” said Rob McCann, executive director of Catholic Charities.
McCann said Kolonko will shift her role to focus on senior services and food, while Mallahan will take over housing. The job includes overseeing Catholic Charities’ apartment buildings for formerly homeless people.
“He’s got a lot of expertise in that area,” McCann said. “He’s also a well-known leader.”
Internal funds, and some special funds solicited from donors, will pay Mallahan’s salary, McCann said. He declined to divulge the salary figure.
McCann said the move is part of a long tradition of people moving from social services at the city to Catholic Charities and back. He said those transitions have all worked out well, and he’s not worried about any disagreements between the city and homeless service providers following Mallahan to his new role.
“Obviously anybody who works at the city of Spokane is going to be involved in lots of delicate situations or tricky situations,” McCann said. “We’ve never seen that to be a problem at all.”
In a statement, Condon praised Mallahan’s work at City Hall.
“Jonathan has directed important work that has reduced homelessness, greatly improved customer service through 311, ensured our neighborhoods are engaged, and made it easier to invest in our city,” the mayor said.
City councilmembers also lauded Mallahan’s work.
“He totally has a heart for the population Catholic Charities serves,” City Councilman Breean Beggs said. “That sounds like a good match and I wish him the best.”
City Councilwoman Karen Stratton, who worked with Mallahan as a city employee and former chair of the council committee overseeing social services, said she believed the move would allow Mallahan to focus on serving and away from potentially thorny policy decisions.
“Jonathan has a good heart and I think this is a good move for him,” Stratton said.
Dawn Kinder, who has been serving as the city’s director of Community, Housing and Human Services department overseen by Mallahan, will take over as division director on an interim basis Jan. 1, according to the city’s news release. The position will require City Council approval.
Kinder will be replaced by Kelly Keenan, senior manager of Kinder’s department.
Mallahan earned a salary of $128,530 in his role as division director last year.
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