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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Spokane County Commission to conduct airport board interviews Monday

Commercial planes are seen Jan. 11 at the Spokane International Airport.   (Jesse Tinsley/The Spokesman-Review)

The Spokane County commissioners on Monday will interview five candidates for a vacancy on the Spokane Airport Board.

While such appointments rarely attract much attention, the lead-up to this one has been full of drama.

In January, Spokane County Commissioner Al French nominated Ignite Northwest CEO Tom Simpson as a replacement for the county’s outgoing appointee, Avista Corp. Government Affairs Director Collins Sprague.

Commissioner Chris Jordan motioned to delay the appointment decision, which prompted French to launch into a half-hour presentation criticizing Sprague and Mary Kuney, one of French’s fellow Republicans on the five-member county commission.

French’s slideshow was surprising not only because it bashed a volunteer board member, but because it attacked Kuney.

That attack revealed a rift between the Republican commissioners, who hold a 3-2 majority on the county commission. French, Kuney and Commissioner Josh Kerns will likely have to vote together to pass significant legislation, given their ideological differences with Jordan and his fellow Democrat Amber Waldref.

While the five finalists for the airport board vacancy won’t be household names for many, each appears to have some relevant experience.

Simpson has decades of experience as an investment banker and venture capitalist. In addition to leading Ignite Northwest, he’s president of the Spokane Angel Alliance. French has repeatedly noted Simpson is a pilot.

Clyde Haase founded Clyde Haase Landscape in 1985. According to Haase Landscape’s website, he has served on the Spokane Valley Chamber of Commerce, the Spokane County Planning Commission and the Spokane County Interstate Fair’s board.

Brooke Baker Spink is the chief development officer of Baker Construction and Development.

According to a 2018 story in the Spokane Journal of Business, Baker Spink has served on the board of directors for the Spokane Sports Commission.

Kelly Fukai is the vice president of government and community affairs for the Washington Technology Industry Association, and former manager of public and external affairs for the Spokane International Airport.

Patty Shea’s background is less clear. A Spokane woman with the same name, who could not be reached for comment, had a 39-year career with Avista before retiring in 2019, owns her own consulting company and is a private pilot, according to the September 2021 Leadership Spokane alumni newsletter.

The county commissioners will begin interviewing the five candidates at 9 a.m. Monday.