(The Center Square) – Confessing to both fear and excitement for the future, Spokane Mayor-elect Lisa Brown and new city Councilmember Kitty Klitzke were sworn into office during a special ceremony Wednesday evening.
Both will begin four-year terms starting Jan. 1.
Brown, 67, defeated incumbent mayor Nadine Woodward, who was vying for a second term, in the Nov. 7 general election following a contentious campaign that saw the two candidates each raise over a half-million dollars in contributions.
While the mayor and council positions are non-partisan, there were distinct political overtones in the races, with Brown – a former state Democratic legislator and Klitzke, one of her former campaign officials – viewed as liberals while Woodward was supported by numerous Republican party officials.
“The divisions are real and don’t go away with an election,” Brown acknowledged in her comments to the large crowd gathered in downtown Spokane’s Central Library auditorium for Wednesday’s ceremony.
She said it is a sad time for people around the world facing war and injustice, and at home with people sleeping on the streets.
But Brown said she wanted to “focus on solutions, not jurisdictions” and encourage citizens to “join hands, not point fingers” while building “on what’s good” in the community.
“I feel gratitude for this place we call home, Spokane,” she said.
Brown has recruited a diverse group of nearly 100 people for five “transition committees” that will make recommendations, both immediate and long-term, on her campaign issues. She said they will address public safety, health, and housing options; boost the local economy and work force; restore neighborhoods; build trust with local law enforcement; and find ways to include “the excluded.”
A week ago, Brown announced several pending cabinet appointments. Named to her new administration are Mike Piccolo as city attorney, Justin Lundgren as interim police chief, Garrett Jones continuing as interim city administrator, and Maggie Yates as assistant city administrator. She also plans to elevate the position of director of the Office of Civil Rights, Equity, and Inclusion as a cabinet-level position.
In her comments, Klitzke referenced many of the same topics as Brown while citing the need for infrastructure improvements and addressing a multi-million-dollar imbalance in the city’s general fund that received temporary patchwork support in the 2024 budget.
Brown also spoke of the “wonderful qualities of Spokane,” including its public libraries, parks, entrepreneurship of local businesses, the presence of both Gonzaga University’s law school and Washington State University’s medical/health sciences school – of which Brown is the former chancellor – and fondness for the city’s coffee and crafts shops with the quip, “Move over, Portland and Seattle.”
The economy, she said, holds “lots of promise.”
Spokane, with a growing population currently estimated at 232,700 residents, is Washington state’s second-largest city behind Seattle. Brown, who has also served as the state’s Commerce director and an economics professor at Eastern Washington University, said her new job as mayor may be “the hardest one.”
But she added, “In essence, I feel hopeful … it all starts with us.”
Klitzke voiced optimism, too, saying, “Spokane, it’s time to raise your expectations … We can do this.”
Both women received the oath of office from King County Superior Court Judge Jaime Hawk, a longtime friend of Brown. They were introduced a fellow campaigner this year, newly elected Spokane City Council president Betsy Wilkerson.
The evening featured a special reading by local author Sharma Shields and music from The Haywire Band, students from the Salish School of Spokane, and a trio covering the Ben Harper song, “Better Way.”