Longtime Spokane Parks Director Leroy Eadie is retiring from the city and moving to Portland

click to enlarge Longtime Spokane Parks Director Leroy Eadie is retiring from the city and moving to Portland (2)
Daniel Walters photo
Spokane Parks Director Leroy Eadie's very first day with the city of Spokane was Jan. 3, 1994, way back when Mrs. Doubtfire was number one at the box office.

His last day with the city of Spokane will be Friday. Eadie's retiring and moving to Portland.

Eadie started as just a lowly city planner and worked his way up to getting appointed planning director. He got a chance to work on the city's downtown plan. Back then, he'd look over at Riverfront Park and get excited about the possibility of making Riverfront Park better.

That, however, wasn't the domain of the planning department. That was the domain of the parks director. And then, in 2009, Mayor Mary Verner moved him to a parks director position.

And Eadie got his wish: He helped oversee one of the most ambitious parks projects in 40 years, the $64-million-plus rehab and update of downtown Spokane's Riverfront Park.

That's not to say it's been easy. There've been delays and cost over-runs. There was the constant headache of a broken water fountain. There were controversies over big changes to the original plan.

But, for Eadie, there have also been the more positive type of unexpected surprise.

For nearly three years, Juliet Sinisterra was the project manager for the Riverfront Park Master Plan. After she officially left the project, they started dating. Today, the two are married.

The Riverfront Park update is arguably one of the biggest pieces of his legacy, yet Eadie's leaving before it's completed. But he says he's OK with that.

"We’re just down to construction. All the design work is done," Eadie says. "For me, personally, my big interest in the project, my passion, was around the master planning and design."

With the planning work done and the park update has been fully funded, Eadie says he felt comfortable leaving the city. He's also been able to set in motion corporate sponsorships for the park, including a sponsor for the Skate Ribbon who will be announced next month.

"I will be back for the ribbon-cutting of the pavilion and the ribbon-cutting on the north bank," Eadie promises.

Eadie will be replaced, at least temporarily, by parks planning manager Garrett Jones. 

City Council President Ben Stuckart considers the trust the city has in Jones' as evidence of Eadie's great mentorship.

"Garrett’s not that old," Stuckart says. "He’s been able to really mentor him to where I think everybody has strong confidence in Garrett."

Stuckart also says that the parks department staff members he knew also got along well with Eadie. He notes how hard both employees and Park Board members have worked the last few years, and credits that to Eadie's leadership.

One of the most impressive pieces of Eadie's tenure may be his longevity in administrative roles that can easily fall prey to politics.

"It’s a tricky position," Eadie says. "In a lot of ways, you have three different bosses."

The mayor, the Spokane City Council and the Park Board all have independent claims to shape the direction of the park's department, and Eadie has had to balance all those competing interests.

His predecessor, Barry Russell, had been ousted by Mayor Verner in 2009. Nearly every other one of his fellow division directors have resigned, retired or been forced out since Eadie became Parks director in 2009.

But Eadie's remained with the city of Spokane under seven different mayors, throughout quite a few employee controversies.

"Navigating local government is always tricky," Eadie says. "We didn't have a class on how to navigate local government. You really have to have a pulse on the politics of City Hall and the politics of the community."

At the same time, Eadie says, you've got to rise above politics.

"Leave your politics at home," Eadie says. "Nobody should know if you're red or blue or liberal or conservative. Come to work and do your job and really pay attention to what’s going on at city, and know how to navigate that process."

You work hard. You build relationships. You get things done.

"I think his legacy will just be, if you look back, the strengths of the park system," Stuckart says. "He’s able to balance all these competing interests well without everybody being up in arms."

At the same time, Stuckart says, Eadie wasn't willing to waver from his belief in the importance of parks.

"He never backed down from his mission to do what is best for the parks system as a whole and protect those open spaces," Stuckart says.

He says he's putting his house on the market and will be moving to Portland in the next few months. He says, with his background in planning, he's admired what Portland has done. 

"They support the arts," Eadie says. "It’s a city that I want to live in. The icing on the cake is my son lives there too."

He says he'll look for a job in Portland after spending some time traveling.

"I want to spend some time in a little bit bigger city," Eadie says. "I think it’s like a 10-year thing. I think we’re pretty intent on coming back to Spokane to retire."

Or rather, to retire for the second time. 

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About The Author

Daniel Walters

A lifelong Spokane native, Daniel Walters is the Inlander's senior investigative reporter. But he also reports on a wide swath of other topics, including business, education, real estate development, land use, and other stories throughout North Idaho and Spokane County.He's reported on deep flaws in the Washington...