Mike Sparber, the previous interim director of Spokane County Detention Services and longtime corrections officer with the agency, has officially been named director by the Spokane County Board of Commissioners.
Sparber, who first joined the county as a corrections officer in 1988, stepped into the role of interim director last February when John McGrath, the former director, left the position after roughly five years in the role. A nationwide search for a new agency head ensued, garnering 11 qualified applicants out of 31 total applications, according to Jared Webley, a Spokane County spokesperson.
“Mike has shown great leadership in his time as Interim Director. We are excited that he will be taking on these duties officially as the full-time director," Mary Kuney, chair of the Spokane County Board of Commissioners, says in a news release. "He leads with dedication and compassion for our employees and the individuals within our detention services system.”
Sparber's selection as director comes amidst a series of issues in its facilities. Inmate overcrowding in the Spokane County Jail continues to pose problems, along with drug overdoses within the facility — and the importation of illicit drugs — and inmate deaths. An inmate died in early June, marking the ninth death in the aging jail since 2017, while three inmates were hospitalized in May after taking an "unknown powdery substance."
Of his priorities, Sparber says in a news release: “I strongly believe in nurturing an organizational culture of honesty, transparency and accountability, based not only on our core values, but also a sound organizational strategy aligned with county and Spokane regional objectives. I am looking forward to the opportunity to leave a positive mark on this agency.”
In addition to his involvement in the Spokane Regional Law and Justice Council, Sparber serves as a member of the American Jail Association, the American Corrections Association and the local committee working with the MacArthur Foundation on its criminal justice reform work in the county. He also holds a bachelor's degree in business administration from Eastern Washington University, an Executive Certification from the Washington State Criminal Justice Commission and a Trilogy Award for leadership from the FBI.