Mayor-elect Nadine Woodward has tapped the city administrator of Ephrata to serve as Spokane’s second in command.
Woodward announced on Wednesday that she has hired Wes Crago as the new city administrator.
Crago will replace outgoing Mayor David Condon’s longtime right-hand woman, Theresa Sanders, who had already announced her intention to leave her post when the new mayor is sworn in.
“Wes has all that experience, but yet he knows the area so well. That was really important to me,” Woodward said.
Crago called the position a “dream job.”
“I’m here to serve. I’m here to be a part of what I consider one of the most vibrant cities in North America. It’s going to be fun,” Crago said.
Unlike her predecessor, Woodward has been hesitant to unveil the names of people she’s surrounded herself with as she prepares to take the reins of the city in January.
For the first time since her election in November, Woodward also provided a glimpse into her transition leadership, disclosing that she appointed Thomas Bartridge to lead her team’s preparations to take office on Jan. 1. Bartridge most recently worked as the vice president of Middle East operations at Haploos, a Spokane-based business management consultant firm.
Woodward also announced a slate of city department leaders who will stay on when she assumes office, including Spokane Police Chief Craig Meidl and Fire Chief Brian Schaeffer.
She has also asked City Attorney Michael Ormsby, Public Works Director Scott Simmons, and Chief Information Technology Officer Eric Finch to continue in their roles. Woodward plans to retain Brandy Cote, who serves as director of the mayor’s office.
She will still have to fill major vacancies at City Hall, including a director of communications, and find a replacement for outgoing city Chief Financial Officer Gavin Cooley. Human Resources Director Christine Cavanaugh is expected to retire in January, leaving an opening.
Marlene Feist, the interim communications director, is expected to return full-time to her role as director of strategic development in Public Works.
Woodward said she has met with all of the cabinet leaders one-on-one. She described them as “extremely talented,” and said “we wanted to reassure them that they have a job before the holidays.”
“Why change what’s working? These people know what they’re doing. It was absolutely incredible to hear their stories,” Woodward said.
Crago has served as the city administrator in Ephrata, a city of about 8,000 near Moses Lake, for 16 years. Previously, he served on its City Council.
“I love the fact that he’s got this dual perspective of running the city, but also serving on the council, as we move forward to open the lines of communication with our City Council,” Woodward said.
Both Woodward and members of the City Council, which has developed a fraught relationship with Condon over his eight years, have pledged to rehabilitate the partnership between the city’s executive and legislative branches of government.
Though Ephrata is just a fraction of the size of Spokane, its crises and victories are similar, Crago said.
“When you look at the challenges, the scale is much different, but I am so confident that this team will overcome anything,” Crago said.
Matt Moore, an Ephrata City Council member, described Crago as an administrator who never shuts the door to his office.
“He’s such a galvanizing person, very easy to work with and very friendly,” Moore said.
As city administrator, Moore said Crago has been effective at reminding everyone of their role within city government. That entails a City Council looking at policy from the “30,000-foot level” and not meddling in the day-to-day administration of government. Nor does he allow employees to jump up and try to dictate policy discussion, Moore added.
“He does a good job of making sure everyone gets their perspective of where they fit within the team,” Moore said.
Ephrata Mayor Bruce Reim said Woodward made a good choice.
“Based on his tenure here and the personal part of knowing him, I think Spokane’s in pretty good shape right now,” said Reim, who described Crago as likable and energetic.
Crago said he was enticed to work for Woodward, in part, due to her vision for the community that “isn’t bound by politics, isn’t bound by obligations, it’s simply bound by the ethos of ‘do what works for the most people.’ ”
Councilman Breean Beggs, who will become council president in January, met with Crago for 45 minutes on Wednesday.
“I really enjoyed our meeting. He seems really qualified and capable and (has) just the right kind of collaborative attitude I was hoping for,” Beggs said.
Councilwoman Lori Kinnear said Crago’s outside perspective may benefit Spokane.
“I think it’s heartening that he’s got municipal experience, quite frankly, so I’m looking forward to meeting him,” Kinnear said.
Bartridge built his career overseeing human resources for major companies in the Middle East, including Eagle Hills, a United Arab Emirates-based real estate development and private investment firm. Previously, he served as executive director of human resources for Future Pipe Industries, a company based in the United Arab Emirates with more than 2,000 employees.
“I would be surprised if there was someone in Spokane more qualified, and I don’t mean that to exaggerate,” said Josh Arritola, the CEO and president of Haploos.
Bartridge joined Haploos in 2017, when he came home to Spokane after more than 20 years working in the Middle East. Haploos tasked him with helping forge connections as it looked to expand its business into the Middle East. Though it ultimately didn’t work out, Arritola said he is a “huge fan of Tom, and I think the guy is amazing.”
“His experience is mind-boggling,” Arritola said.
Woodward said she wanted someone with “strong leadership, managerial and hiring experience” to lead her transition.
“I love the fact that he is so intelligent, so smart,” Woodward said, adding that he treats people with respect.
Woodward also announced that she will recommend myriad interim department and division heads be appointed permanently and confirmed by the City Council.
The appointments include Timothy Sigler, director of Community, Housing and Human Services, and Tija Danzig, senior manager in the same department. The two have helmed the city’s efforts to open an emergency warming center for the homeless this winter following the resignation of former department head Kelly Keenan in October.
Garrett Jones, director of Parks and Recreation, who has steered the redevelopment of Riverfront Park, will also be recommended to the council.
Paul Ingiosi, the interim budget director, will stay on permanently with the council’s approval. Along with Cooley, the city’s outgoing CFO, Ingiosi led the creation of the city’s recently adopted 2020 budget, serving as the intermediary between City Council and city administration.
Woodward’s recommendations for appointment also include Carly Cortright, director of Customer Experience; Kris Becker, director of Development Services, Code Enforcement and Parking; and Clint Harris, streets director.
Woodward expects the council to vote on the appointments on Jan. 27.
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