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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Here’s a look at the nine people who applied to serve a three-month stint on the Spokane City Council

Spokane City Council member Lori Kinnear, who is serving as council president Pro Tem, was elected as interim council president July 17 at the city council meeting.  (Jesse Tinsley/THE SPOKESMAN-REVIEW)

Nine people have submitted applications to fill a seat on the Spokane City Council vacated by Lori Kinnear when she was appointed to temporarily serve as City Council president.

The candidates include a former City Council president, leaders of various civic organizations and one candidate for the seat who recently lost the August primary.

They include Rob Higgins, Michael Adolfae, Barry Barfield, Kelly Brown, Debra Conklin, Cyndi Donahue, Mary Ann McCurdy, Hadley Morrow and Ryan Oelrich.

Kinnear was named City Council president on July 17, following the departure of Council President Breean Beggs, who has been appointed as a Spokane Superior Court judge. Kinnear was already term limited, and Paul Dillon and Katey Treloar are currently running to fill her seat for the next four years; once the November election is certified, the winner will replace the appointee.

In the meantime, the City Council must approve someone to serve in the vacant position for three months.

Applications closed Friday. Of the nine who applied, Kinnear will receive recommendations from other council members and select the top three applicants who will advance to public interviews before the full City Council on Aug. 24. The full City Council will vote on Aug. 28 to approve an appointee from those finalists.

Applicants were asked 15 questions, including why they are interested in serving on the council and what they believe should be the role of the council, such as in addressing homelessness, housing affordability and climate change and holding the city police chief and other department heads accountable.

Higgins previously served on the City Council and was the city’s first City Council president after the adoption of the strong -mayor system of city government. He retired last year from the Spokane Association of REALTORS. He positioned himself as a candidate with unparalleled experience on the council, able to hit the ground running if appointed.

McCurdy runs her own consulting company, McCurdy Consulting, and worked as the Eastern Washington representative for then-Gov. Gary Locke from 1997 to 2005. She has experience with various civic organizations, such as The Lands Council, Rotary Club 21 and others.

Adolfae worked as the city’s community development director from 1981 to 2012, and before that as a city planner for both Spokane and Seattle. He has also served on the Association of Washington Cities as the Eastern Washington representative and as a member on the Washington State Department of Commerce affordable housing board. He pointed to his experience working for Washington’s largest cities as equipping him with the tools necessary to legislate.

Barfield worked for over three decades for Gonzaga Preparatory School in roles ranging from bus driver to administrator. He is the current administrator of the Spokane Homeless Coalition and leads Spokane Urban Plunge. He previously served as chair of the board of the city’s Community, Housing and Human Services department. Despite his experience with homelessness, he argues that addressing the issue is not something the city can solve, but suggests the City Council should aggressively pursue resources from the county, state and federal governments.

Brown currently serves as chair of the Citizens Advisory Committee for the Spokane Park Board and president of The Friends of Manito. She works as a program coordinator for the city’s Expo ’74 50th anniversary celebration. She wrote that she pioneered the Manito Park Holiday Lights and Manito Park Art Festival and that her experience “pouring my heart into Manito Park” and other local institutions, including as a founding member of The Friends of Riverfront Park, demonstrate her love for the city.

Conklin is a pastor and chief administrator of the United Methodist Church, the former chair of the office of the police ombudsman commission and a current member of the West Central Coalition and the Spokane Homeless Coalition. In her application, she noted her work to help implement the Quality Jobs Ordinance in 2014, which incentivized using locally sourced materials for large public works projects and requires some of the workers employed on those projects to be apprentices. She wrote that the council must ensure that the city starts publishing reports for providing shelter during extreme heat, cold and smoke events, which the administration has not produced.

Donahue is a former yoga teacher and personal trainer at the Spokane Club, and until recently worked as the community engagement director for nonprofit startup accelerator Ignite Northwest. She also was among the four candidates who filed to run for Kinnear’s seat, but lost during the Aug. 1 primary.

“I am in a unique position to serve in a temporary capacity on Spokane City Council because I’ve spent most of the year preparing for this role,” she wrote in her application submitted Aug. 4.

Morrow is a member of the Spokane NAACP, the local chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Alliance and the Lincoln Heights Neighborhood Council. She currently works as a consultant and until recently worked as director of Movement Building for Better Health Together. She wrote in her application that her role with that latter organization has prepared her to tackle the city’s 2024 budget, and noted that she has volunteered in various capacities since she was in the sixth grade.

Oelrich serves as the executive director of Priority Spokane, has worked as a commissioner, director and secretary for the Continuum of Care board, and has been recognized by the U.S. Congress for his work on poverty and homelessness. He was first thrust into public life nearly 20 years ago after accusing then-Mayor Jim West of sexual harassment, and has more recently been known as the Spokane man who built a Hobbit House in his front yard.

“I understand the very temporary role, and I would work to assure a smooth transition to the elected candidate in November,” he wrote in his application.