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Spokane City Administrator Wes Crago resigns

UPDATED: Sat., Sept. 26, 2020

Wes Crago introduces himself as Spokane’s city administrator in February during Spokane Mayor Nadine Woodward’s first State of the City address during a Greater Spokane Incorporated meeting at the Spokane Convention Center.  (TYLER TJOMSLAND)
Wes Crago introduces himself as Spokane’s city administrator in February during Spokane Mayor Nadine Woodward’s first State of the City address during a Greater Spokane Incorporated meeting at the Spokane Convention Center. (TYLER TJOMSLAND)

Spokane City Administrator Wes Crago abruptly resigned this week, less than a year after Mayor Nadine Woodward picked him as the top nonelected official at City Hall .

Crago will be replaced on an interim basis by Public Works Director Scott Simmons while Woodward conducts a search for his replacement. Crago’s last day officially will be Friday, but he is not expected to return to the office before then, according to city spokesman Brian Coddington.

Crago joined the administration last December prior to Woodward’s transition into office.

“Everything is very positive and I have no hard feelings or ill feelings,” Crago said when reached by The Spokesman-Review on Saturday. “My heart kind of lies with the smaller organizations and being a little closer on the operational side and the staff members in a tight community.”

That’s not meant as a slight to the people he worked with in Spokane, including the mayor, all of whom he described as “world class.”

Crago’s resignation was submitted in a conversation with Woodward on Wednesday night.

After serving on its City Council, Crago worked as the city administrator in Ephrata, Washington, for 16 years before joining the Woodward administration. Though Ephrata’s population is a small fraction of Spokane’s, Crago rose to the top of Woodward’s list of candidates with a combination of Eastern Washington bona fides and professional experience in municipal government.

In an interview with The Spokesman-Review last December, Crago called the city administrator role in Spokane a “dream job.”

Crago’s departure coincides with Woodward’s plans to restructure the organization of her administration, but Coddington called the timing “coincidental.”

The restructured administration will more closely align with the work undertaken by the City Council’s committees, and the plan is to dedicate leaders to five strategic areas, according to Coddington.

Woodward announced Crago’s resignation Thursday in a citywide email that was dedicated primarily to the new organizational structure. The challenges of her first months in office, Woodward wrote, “have forced operational reflection that has provided clarity as to what is needed to manage and run a responsive, efficient, and effective city organization.”

Crago declined to say whether Woodward asked for his resignation, or whether he resigned of his own volition. He also declined to say whether the planned restructuring was directly tied to his departure.

In Crago’s absence, City Attorney Michael Ormsby will return to his former role, under the administration of then-Mayor David Condon, of guiding the City Council through its briefing sessions every Monday.

Among many responsibilities, Crago was a key liaison between the administration and members of the City Council and was well-liked by its members.

Crago was also a central figure in the city’s response to the coronavirus pandemic, which he pointed to as a point of pride during his short tenure in Spokane.

“Everyone really came together during COVID, and seeing that in action was a great thing to have a small part in,” Crago said.

Council President Breean Beggs said that Woodward informed him of Crago’s departure on Thursday.

“I haven’t spoken with him, (but) I got along with him very well,” Beggs said. “He seemed like a positive force … we’ll miss him.”

Beggs pledged his support for the mayor, with whom he has regularly collaborated, including on the opening of a new downtown police precinct that was celebrated this week.

“I have established a pretty positive relationship with the mayor, and we talk very regularly,” Beggs said. “I don’t anticipate that slowing down at all.”

Beggs also was reassured by the administration that Crago’s departure would not disrupt plans for a community conversation on potential policing reforms, he said.

Woodward will hire a third-party firm to conduct the search for Crago’s replacement, Coddington said, and a replacement will be named “as quickly as we possibly can.”

Woodward could not immediately be reached for comment on Saturday.

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