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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Betsy Wilkerson announces run for Spokane City Council President

It’s official: Spokane City Councilwoman Betsy Wilkerson has announced her bid to become City Council president, a seat held by Breean Beggs, who has declined to run for re-election and is instead endorsing Wilkerson.

During her campaign kickoff at the Carl Maxey Center in the East Central Neighborhood, Wilkerson declared she would bring a fresh perspective to one of the most powerful elected positions in the city.

“Together, we can make Spokane a safer, more vibrant community for generations to come,” Wilkerson said.

Standing not far away from the lectern was Beggs, who helped recruit Wilkerson to the City Council four years ago and has now endorsed her to replace him.

“Betsy has an amazing skill of navigating the corridors of power and the status quo without alienating them,” he said. “She navigates them, asks penetrating questions, stands up for values and communities that have been marginalized.

“I just think it’s her time to lead,” he said. “She’ll be able to run that show.”

Wilkerson was first appointed to the Spokane City Council in 2020, filling a seat vacated by Beggs when he was elected as council president. When she was sworn-in, Wilkerson was the first Black member on the council in nearly 20 years and only the second Black woman to ever serve on the council. If elected, Wilkerson would become the first Black and first woman council president.

She won re-election in 2021, though she ran unopposed after her general election opponent, Tyler LeMasters, was disqualified for not meeting residency requirements.

During her time on the City Council, Wilkerson has been a fierce advocate for the East Central Neighborhood, which she regularly notes has been historically neglected. She clashed with Mayor Nadine Woodward over Woodward’s decision to place a police precinct into the neighborhood’s former library, despite what Wilkerson believed was insufficient feedback from the community.

“Others would like that to be an economic engine to activate that campus, because it is in the heart” of the neighborhood, Wilkerson said at the time.

She has also came under fire from some pro-policing property owners for her skepticism of certain law enforcement expenditures and activities.

Police Chief Craig Meidl and prominent property owners Chud Wendle and Sheldon Jackson have attacked Wilkerson for a 2021 incident where she exercised her constitutional right to deny a police search until law enforcement obtained a warrant.

This will be Wilkerson’s first competitive election.

Kim Plese, a former small business owner who ran unsuccessfully last year for a seat on the Spokane County Commission, announced her bid to become Spokane City Council president in February.

Before Wilkerson’s appointment to City Council in 2020, she touted a lengthy professional resume, including owning Moore’s Assisted Living, a residential care facility for the mentally ill, since 1993. Wilkerson is also deeply rooted in the local nonprofit world, serving as president of the board at the Carl Maxey Center and previously as a member of the board at the Innovia Foundation.