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Nadine Woodward sworn in as Spokane’s mayor

UPDATED: Mon., Dec. 30, 2019

Nadine Woodward takes the oath of office as Mayor of Spokane at the U.S. Pavilion in Riverfront Park on Monday, Dec. 30, 2019. (Kathy Plonka / The Spokesman-Review)
Nadine Woodward takes the oath of office as Mayor of Spokane at the U.S. Pavilion in Riverfront Park on Monday, Dec. 30, 2019. (Kathy Plonka / The Spokesman-Review)

It was a brief retirement.

Longtime Spokane television news anchor Nadine Woodward was sworn in as the city’s 45th mayor on Monday in a ceremony at the U.S. Pavilion at Riverfront Park, its netting illuminated in her campaign colors of blue and purple and pierced by the white streaks of dancing snowflakes.

A crowd of more than 100 people braved the flurries to attend the ceremony for Woodward, who retired from KXLY in January and announced a candidacy for mayor in April.

In a speech following her swearing-in by Judge Shelley Szambelan, Woodward simultaneously struck a conciliatory tone while holding fast to the promises she made during a divisive – and ultimately successful – campaign for mayor.

“We are all connected as citizens of Spokane,” Woodward said. “While our backgrounds are varied, we live in this beautiful city together.”

Flanked by Phil Altmeyer, executive director of Union Gospel Mission, Woodward pledged to offer a “hand up, not a hand out” in addressing homelessness. It was evocative of her campaign stump speech, in which she routinely accused the city of “warehousing” and “enabling” the homeless.

“We must help meet the immediate needs of our homeless population, but even more, to guide them to the long-term, transformational support that empowers them to change their lives,” Woodward said.

She also reiterated her commitment to relocating the Spokane Police Department’s downtown precinct to the city’s core from its current location at the Intermodal Center on West First Avenue.

The new precinct, which Woodward has said will be an immediate priority of her administration, is the centerpiece of her plan to improve public safety in downtown Spokane.

“We need to give our law enforcement the right tools to do their job effectively, and it starts with more officers on patrol,” Woodward said.

The department plans to add five patrol officers, one detective and one sergeant to the downtown precinct this year with funding from the voter-approved public safety levy, which passed in February. Woodward opposed the levy, saying she would have found the funding for additional officers without raising taxes.

“That will definitely increase the presence of SPD downtown. That will be the No. 1 priority,” Spokane police Chief Craig Meidl said of the new precinct and staffing increases.

Woodward acknowledged the economic progress of the city in recent years and pledged to build on it, saying her administration would “champion policies that make it easier to start and grow businesses.”

“Spokane needs great-paying jobs and upward opportunities to continue building a vibrant, diversified local economy,” Woodward said.

As she takes office, Woodward will be tasked with mending the relationship between the executive branch and the City Council.

Councilwoman Lori Kinnear and Council President Breean Beggs, who have worked with Woodward on planning a new downtown police precinct, both expressed optimism about working with the new mayor following her speech on Monday.

“I’m excited and I look forward to forging a new relationship, and I think that’s one of her priorities, too,” Kinnear said.

New Councilman Michael Cathcart was also present for the swearing-in.

Jesse Tinsley

Altmeyer led the crowd in prayer before the ceremony, expressing hope for a Spokane that is, among other attributes, a place “where the less fortunate are treated with respect and their dignity is restored.”

“Give her the strength to display peace in the storm, joy in the midst of bad circumstances, patience when things go wrong, kindness to those who oppose her, and the strength to love her enemies,” Altmeyer said.

As she did on election night, Woodward thanked God “for his incredible blessings to bring me here today.”

Those shocked by Woodward’s successful entry into city politics underestimated the name recognition, credibility and reputation she built during three decades as a television news anchor in Spokane.

Woodward leaned heavily on the trust she’d fostered with Spokane residents throughout her campaign for mayor.

Though she had given little public hint at having a predilection for politics, Woodward had been courted to run for office for nearly a decade. Finally, this year, the pull was strong enough for her to put her name on the ballot.

Charles Rowe, Woodward’s longtime co-anchor at KREM, described the realization he had as the station soared in the ratings.

“We were attached to her coattails,” Rowe said. “Nadine is a proven winner and a leader.”

It was fitting that the ceremony occurred in the Pavilion, which reopened in September after a multiyear redesign and renovation. Its leaning spine, visible from most anywhere near the center of the city, is one of the crowning achievements of outgoing Mayor David Condon’s two-term tenure in office.

Woodward earned Condon’s endorsement in her bid for mayor, despite campaigning on a promise to bring an alternative approach to city leadership.

Condon expressed confidence in Woodward on Monday.

“She’s bringing in her team, integrating with the career professionals at the city and putting together her vision for the city,” Condon said.

While Woodward’s title changes on New Year’s Day, she’s no stranger to City Hall.

Thanks to a pre-election pledge from Condon to make the transition as smooth as possible, Woodward and her team have been holed up on the fifth floor of City Hall since her victory in November.

They’ve used the office space, which matches the layout of the mayor’s office on the seventh floor, to meet with city leaders and new candidates for open positions. Condon assigned his city administrator, Theresa Sanders, to aid in the transition.

Earlier this month, Woodward announced she has hired former Ephrata city administrator Wes Crago as Spokane’s new city administrator. Woodward also said she would retain a slate of department heads, both interim and otherwise, including police Chief Craig Meidl and fire Chief Brian Schaeffer.

Ceremony aside, Woodward will not legally become mayor until Wednesday.

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