The Replacements

Meet Spokane's newest councilman; plus, the finalists for the county commission

Replacing Mielke

The Spokane County GOP has picked three candidates to fill Todd Mielke's vacated seat on the SPOKANE COUNTY COMMISSION: Nancy McLaughlin, Josh Kerns and Jeff Baxter.

Mielke resigned from the seat and started a job as chief executive for Greater Spokane Inc. on Feb. 1.

McLaughlin, a former Spokane city councilwoman, was the first choice to fill the seat in a meeting of Spokane County Republican Party precinct officers on Saturday. Kerns, a state legislative aide, was second; Baxter, a former state senator, was third.

Al French and Shelly O'Quinn, the two remaining county commissioners, are expected to pick one of those three candidates in the coming weeks. A major factor in their decision will be determining which candidate has the best chance to win the seat in the November general election.

In her speech to committee officers, McLaughlin held up props — including a Bible and a copy of the U.S. Constitution — and said there is a political war going on in the country. "I took that spirit to City Hall and became a tried-and-true political war veteran," she said.

Kerns, the legislative assistant for state Rep. Jeff Holy, said he would make sure Spokane becomes a place for business growth: "We're going to make Spokane County the best place to run a business, and everybody is going to know it."

"First and foremost, I'm a Christian," said Baxter in his pitch, adding that he would bring integrity, honesty, and character to the seat while making sure the county was within budget without raising taxes. He was appointed to the state Senate in 2011 and served 10 months before losing in the general election to Sen. Mike Padden. On Saturday, Baxter defeated the fourth nominee, Dale Strom, in the third round of voting. (WILSON CRISCIONE)

A Man For His Time

click to enlarge New Spokane City Council member Breean Beggs.
New Spokane City Council member Breean Beggs.

For the majority of the Spokane City Council, faced with the question of who to appoint to replace Councilman Jon Snyder, the ultimate choice was obvious.

The police force has been beset by scandal after scandal. The city is facing its own scandal over its handling of sexual harassment allegations.

And BREEAN BEGGS happens to be an attorney, experienced in employment law, who famously sued the city on behalf of the family of Otto Zehm, the schizophrenic janitor who died after being beaten by a police officer in 2006. Zehm's family walked away with an $1.67 million out-of-court settlement.

More recently, Beggs has been active in the "Smart Justice" campaign to enact criminal justice reform and served as the attorney for the Office of the Police Ombudsman Commission.

"[He] knows the players," Councilwoman Karen Stratton says, "and knows where the bones are buried."

By a vote of 5-1 Monday night, the council appointed Beggs as the newest councilman. Council President Ben Stuckart noted that Beggs had already been voted for by the majority of his South Hill constituents, during his unsuccessful race for county prosecutor in 2014.

Only Councilman Mike Fagan, the sole conservative on the council, voted against Beggs. He cited Beggs' support for the controversial Envision Spokane "Worker Bill of Rights" ordinance last fall, and argued that the attorney bears some responsibility for the collapse of the ombudsman commission this summer.

In his interview last week, Beggs named criminal justice reform as his biggest priority. "Criminal justice takes about half the city budget. Despite spending all that money, people don't feel safe," Beggs said. "We see a revolving door of people going in and out of jail."

He also suggested that the council should take an active, aggressive role in its relationship with the mayor's office.

"The city council sets the policy of the city," he said. "In the past I think that's been ceded to the administration. The city council should set policy and the administration should implement it." (DANIEL WALTERS)

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