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Without a team yet in place, Woodward makes nontraditional transition to mayor’s office

Nadine Woodward is cheered at the Barrister Winery on Nov. 5 after her opponent conceded in the race for Spokane mayor. “My approach is going to be a little bit different,” she said this week of her transition to the post. (Colin Mulvany / The Spokesman-Review)
Nadine Woodward is cheered at the Barrister Winery on Nov. 5 after her opponent conceded in the race for Spokane mayor. “My approach is going to be a little bit different,” she said this week of her transition to the post. (Colin Mulvany / The Spokesman-Review)

Mayor-elect Nadine Woodward was a self-described nontraditional candidate.

Now, the former news-anchor-turned-city-leader is running a nontraditional transition.

More than two full weeks after she declared victory on election night, Woodward has diverged from her predecessors by not naming a transition leader or any members of a transition team as she plans to take office in January.

“I don’t have an actual team that I’m working with regularly,” Woodward said. “I’m building that right now.”

Harkening back to a point she made regularly during her campaign, Woodward noted she does not have a political background and will not fit the “cookie-cutter” expectations of a political leader transitioning into office.

“I’m kind of taking my time on how I’m going to do this, and I think that’s OK,” Woodward said.

Woodward faces a daunting set of tasks in the coming months, first among them being to identify leaders for a number of high-profile vacancies at City Hall.

Though she has not formally assembled a transition team, Woodward said she has been regularly meeting with cabinet members, department heads and city employees. On Fridays when she has been in Spokane, she has met with outgoing Mayor David Condon.

“When we transitioned, unfortunately, we were not provided any support from the outgoing administration,” Condon told The Spokesman-Review earlier this month. “It’s a delicate balance. The current administration is still in authority until the end of December, but I think it’s also important to bring (in) the new administration.”

Woodward also met with incoming City Council President Breean Beggs, who currently represents south Spokane on the City Council, on Friday. She plans to meet with more members of the council, she said.

So far, Woodward said she has been impressed with the “great talent in city hall” and people who “are doing an incredible job, and it’s just been such an eye opener for me.”

“I would really like to focus on that and let people know all the good stories that are going on here that don’t get told,” Woodward said.

Condon has assigned Theresa Sanders, his city administrator, to help facilitate the transition from his administration’s end.

It’s not Sanders’ first involvement in a mayoral transition process.

Less than two weeks after he won election in 2011, Condon announced she would lead his transition. By mid-December, Condon had announced a list of nearly 80 people who were participating on his transition team.

But Condon, a former deputy chief of staff for U.S. Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, “came from a place that had a lot more organization,” Woodward noted.

“I’m building my team. I’m in the process of building that team, and it’s not a political team,” Woodward said. “My approach is going to be a little bit different.”

Condon’s approach, a full two terms ago, was also different than his predecessor.

Prior to Condon, Mayor Mary Verner fielded criticism for failing to disclose members of her transition team after she won election in 2007. A Spokesman-Review editorial published at the time said Verner had a choice to respect a potential wish for privacy among attendees at transition team meetings or “honor the expectation of voters who listened to her promote the value of transparency and open communication in government.”

“She made the wrong choice,” the editorial stated.

Work to do

Working with the current mayor’s office, Woodward has identified dozens of positions that need to be filled. But she said she’s asked employees for patience as she works to ensure any new hire is here to stay through a process that is as “objective and fair as possible.”

“I want to make sure that I don’t rush into making some of these decisions because I want to make sure I make the right decision,” Woodward said. “I want to make sure I take time to make the right hires the first time.”

Woodward plans to build issue-based teams on her administration’s central initiatives, including homelessness, public safety, housing and economic development. She is currently reaching out to people to serve on those task forces, she said.

Woodward has settled into an office on the fifth floor of City Hall, just two floors below the current mayor, in a space with the same layout as the mayor’s office on the seventh floor.

She will have to make hires in a number of key positions.

Sanders, the city administrator for the entirety of Condon’s tenure, plans to leave City Hall along with her boss. City Chief Financial Officer Gavin Cooley, who has served under multiple administrations, has announced he plans to retire.

Though it’s the mayor’s choice to nominate department heads, they must be approved by City Council.

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