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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Spokane County Commission delays airport board appointment vote once again

Commercial planes are seen Jan. 11 at the Spokane International Airport. The Spokane County Commission is working toward selecting a new appointee for the airport board in what has become an unusually lengthy and high-profile appointment process.   (Jesse Tinsley/The Spokesman-Review)

Anyone eagerly awaiting a conclusion to the Spokane Airport Board appointment saga will have to wait at least another two weeks for the finale.

On Tuesday, the Spokane County Commission unanimously voted to postpone a decision on a new airport board appointee until at least early February. The commission has now twice delayed a vote on a new board member in the last two weeks.

The Spokane Airport Board, under the authority of the Spokane City Council and county commission, oversees the Spokane International Airport, Felts Field and the Airport Business Park. Two representatives on the board – Spokane County Commissioner Al French and Spokane City Council President Breean Beggs – are elected officials, but the other five are volunteer appointees.

Picking those appointees isn’t typically a high-profile process, but it has been ever since French this month harshly criticized the county’s current unelected board member, Collins Sprague. Sprague is resigning from the airport board at the end of January.

French said during a Jan. 10 meeting that he wanted Tom Simpson, CEO of Ignite Northwest, to replace Sprague.

Following French’s nomination, Spokane County Commissioner Chris Jordan, a newly elected Democrat, said he needed more time to consider the applicants. He made a motion to delay the vote, which passed unanimously.

On Tuesday, Jordan requested that the commissioners keep the application process open through the end of the month and publicly interview all applicants. All five commissioners voted in favor of his request.

“This is an important appointment,” Jordan said. “The airport has a significant economic impact on our region – there’s also been a high degree of public interest in this particular appointment.”

French acknowledged that he and Jordan discussed the situation on Saturday during a two-hour breakfast meeting.

“Thank you for the conversation and willingness to try to find a path forward,” French told Jordan.

“My wife said only one hour next time on weekends,” Jordan replied, drawing a laugh from the audience.

Both French and Jordan said they believe finding the best person to serve on the airport board is critical.

“The airport is, if not our largest asset, one of our largest assets,” French said. “We have experienced a great deal of growth as a community and we have a leadership structure that needs to be supported as we continue that growth.”

The county commission will accept applications for the airport board vacancy until 5 p.m. on Jan. 31 and interview the top five candidates on Feb. 6.