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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Governor taps Mary Kuney to fill vacancy on Spokane County Commission

Mary Kuney leaves the stage at the Sun City Church in Spokane Valley on Aug. 5, shortly before the Spokane County Republican Party nominated her to fill a vacancy on the county commission. Gov. Jay Inslee selected her from a pool of three nominees on Wednesday. (Kathy Plonka / The Spokesman-Review)

Gov. Jay Inslee on Wednesday tapped Mary Kuney to fill a vacancy on the Spokane County Commission, less than two weeks after the sitting commissioners announced they could not agree on a new colleague themselves.

Kuney, the county’s chief deputy auditor, was one of three people that the county Republican Party nominated for the commission seat. The others were County Treasurer Rob Chase and marketing consultant John Guarisco. The seat was previously held by Shelly O’Quinn, who resigned in June to lead a local nonprofit.

Kuney is a certified public accountant and sits on the boards of the Hutton Settlement and the Boys and Girls Clubs of Spokane County. Before joining the county auditor’s office two years ago, she started a business and worked for private accounting firms and the state auditor’s office.

“Mary has deep roots in Spokane, and throughout this appointment process she received broad support from the community,” the Democratic governor said in a statement. “She is well-positioned to bring county employees and stakeholders together.”

Kuney’s appointment is effective immediately. After Inslee’s office made the announcement Wednesday afternoon, she said she’s “honored and humbled” and eager to tackle the county’s budget crisis.

County Auditor Vicky Dalton said she’s losing a “well-qualified” and “compassionate” employee, but the governor “made the right choice” in picking Kuney. Dalton said a swearing-in ceremony would be held as early as Thursday.

Republican Commissioners Al French and Josh Kerns, who were initially tasked with filling the third seat on the commission, never publicly said whom they hoped to appoint. But it was widely surmised that French favored Kuney, his former campaign treasurer, while Kerns preferred Chase.

The sitting commissioners punted the decision to Inslee earlier this month, with Kerns saying they were “looking for different qualifications” in the three nominees.

In a joint statement from the commissioners’ office, French called the appointment process “long and arduous” and said he appreciated “the swiftness of the governor’s decision.”

Kerns, meanwhile, said he anticipated having “a great working relationship” with Kuney and touted her accounting background.

“This was a difficult process from the beginning, mainly because we had three great candidates to choose from,” Kerns said in the statement.

Chase again expressed frustration Wednesday that French had not voted to appoint him.

Republican precinct committee officers ranked Chase ahead of Kuney and Guarisco when nominating them in August. Chase and others say French has repeatedly promised to pick the party favorite when making appointments, although there is no legal requirement to do so and French denies he made such a promise.

“With Al’s pledge, I thought I had a pretty good chance,” Chase said. “I think Al should have kept his word, and I think there ought to be consequences for not keeping his word.”

Chase, who has a year left in his second term as county treasurer, hinted at plans to run for another office but declined to say which one.

Guarisco said he was disappointed by the governor’s decision but that it didn’t change his plans of running for the commission seat in next year’s special election.

“I really wanted to serve the community,” he said. “I think Mary will do a fine job, but there’s a race next year and I’m committed to running in it.”

Guarisco also said he believed that he and Kuney were the strongest of the three nominees.

“Her and I, on paper, are the most qualified people to do that job,” he said.

Kuney said Wednesday that she would defend the seat next year.

“I’ll be filing my PDC shortly,” she said, referring to Public Disclosure Commission forms.