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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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News >  Spokane

Woodward taps former city spokesman Brian Coddington, county budget director Tonya Wallace

UPDATED: Tue., Jan. 14, 2020

Nadine Woodward greets the crowd after being sworn in as Mayor of Spokane at the U.S. Pavilion in Riverfront Park on Monday, Dec. 30, 2019. (Kathy Plonka / The Spokesman-Review)
Nadine Woodward greets the crowd after being sworn in as Mayor of Spokane at the U.S. Pavilion in Riverfront Park on Monday, Dec. 30, 2019. (Kathy Plonka / The Spokesman-Review)
By Chad Sokol and Adam Shanks The Spokesman-Review

Mayor Nadine Woodward is bringing back a top spokesman who served under her predecessor and hiring Spokane County’s chief budget officer.

If confirmed by the Spokane City Council, Brian Coddington, who worked for more than five years under Mayor David Condon, will return as the city’s director of communications and marketing, and Tonya Wallace will become the city’s chief financial officer.

Woodward also appointed her transition director, Tom Bartridge, to serve as the city’s interim human resources director.

“I am so pleased to announce my choices for these key positions in my administration,” Woodward said in a statement. “Their knowledge, experience and heart for public service will complement the team that we already have in place.”

Coddington has been the top spokesman for Spokane Public Schools since he left the city in summer 2018.

“The possibility of me returning to the city is a discussion that evolved over a few conversations. I let the school district know last week, and I expect recruitment for a replacement will begin soon,” Coddington said in a text message Monday evening.

“I have been fortunate to work with great teams at the city and school district that have embraced opportunities to engage the community in ways that invite new voices to the conversation,” he said.

Under Condon, Coddington played a role in the scandal surrounding former police Chief Frank Straub, who was accused of sexual harassment and outbursts against subordinates. In a news conference in 2015, Coddington downplayed how much Straub’s alleged behavior had factored into the decision to transfer a city spokeswoman from the police department to the parks department.

Speaking to reporters following Monday’s City Council meeting, Woodward said Coddington’s role in the Straub saga was not a factor in the decision to hire him.

“Brian is highly capable, experienced, he has the respect of City Hall, and I believe is going to have the support of the City Council,” Woodward said.

Asked if she believed Coddington was honest during the Straub controversy, Woodward said, “That’s in the past. I’m not going to make any comment about the past. I’m only looking forward.”

Marlene Feist has served as the mayor’s spokeswoman in recent years. Her official job title is public works director of strategic development.

Wallace became Spokane County’s chief budget officer in 2017, stepping in as county leaders were toiling to fix a budget shortfall of nearly $10 million. She previously worked in banking and spent 19 years with the city of Boise, beginning as a budget analyst and working her way up the ladder to financial services manager – overseeing all city finances.

“I come from an extremely well-managed city,” Wallace said.

Wallace will replace Gavin Cooley, who is retiring after 17 years at Spokane City Hall working in five mayoral administrations.

With Cooley on his way out, Wallace said the city of Spokane approached her about the job. Condon’s administration had gotten to know Wallace and recommended her to the incoming Woodward administration.

“A lot of it had to do with a lot of the regional projects that the city and county have been coordinating on,” Wallace said.

That collaborative work included conversations regarding the justice system and a new county jail, as well as the effort to launch Spokane Regional Emergency Communications, a regional 911 dispatch center that the City Council has forbidden the city from joining.

“I had a few meetings (with the Woodward administration) to see what their plans are, and I really like the direction that the city is going,” Wallace said.

Wallace said she’s asked for a transition period following her confirmation so her departure from the county “goes very smoothly and it’s well-managed.” The details of the transition period are subject to negotiation, she said.

In a text message Monday evening, county spokesman Jared Webley said the county commissioners are “evaluating the best process for a replacement and transition.”

Bartridge has led Woodward’s transition at City Hall since November.

Bartridge recently returned home to Spokane after more than two decades in human resources at major companies headquartered in the United Arab Emirates, including Eagle Hills, Future Pipe Industries, Emaar Properties and the government-owned Abu Dhabi National Oil Co.

Bartridge also has worked in human resources and training for the U.S. Air Force, according to a news release. Most recently, he was vice president of Middle East operations for Haploos, a Spokane-based business management consulting firm.

Bartridge will work at the city in an interim capacity “to help fill additional key positions with the planned retirement of current Human Resources Director Chris Cavanaugh,” the news release said.

The new department heads are expected to start in February if confirmed by the City Council. According to Feist, Wallace’s annual salary would be $155,581, while Coddington would make $124,883. Bartridge’s position has an annual salary of $135,573. If Bartridge serves in an interim capacity for six months or longer, he too will need council approval.

The council last week confirmed seven other department directors who had been serving in acting roles. And Woodward last month named Wes Crago as city administrator. He’s held the same job for the city of Ephrata for 16 years and previously served on the Ephrata City Council.

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