SPOKANE, Wash. - Seven months on the campaign trail have come to an end and for the first time in eight years, Spokane will have a new mayor in former news anchor Nadine Woodward, whose successful run for office was not without criticism and controversy.
Just minutes after the first wave of election results were released Tuesday, city council president Ben Stuckart gave his concession speech, where he encouraged his supporters to rally around Woodward, who says she was surprised at just how quickly Stuckart conceded.
"Listen, I just did seven months of running a campaign never having been a political person at all, never having been a candidate," Woodward said Thursday in an interview with 4 News Now. "I think people wanted change. I think that's why I won."
In just about two months, Woodward will take over for two-term mayor David Condon with the hope of fulfilling her promise to find solutions for the problems plaguing Spokane.
From the start, Woodward received a lot of criticism after her initial press conference, where she promised to work toward "Spokane solutions," but later told reporters "I have no solutions to propose right now." Woodward said before she could land on those solutions, she needed to talk with the stakeholders in the community, including non-profits, law enforcement, downtown businesses, drug addiction counselors and mental health experts.
"It wasn't about a candidate or one person saying that they had the answer to all of our challenges, because I think when somebody says they have the answer to everything -- you better be careful," Woodward said. "I'm not the one who's gonna say I have the answer to everything."
She came under fire several times in the months that followed -- most often, for ideas that, for some, seemed insensitive to Spokane's poor and homeless.
In May, Woodward posted a video to social media of a security guard and homeless man fighting at the downtown library, which she called a "transient center." In June, she talked about the possibility of banning all homeless people from the library in an interview with The Inlander, which she says she now regrets saying.
"The series of questions then led me to, 'well, if you can't determine who's addicted and who's not addicted, should we ban people in the library, even temporarily?' And I said, 'well, maybe we should look at that' but that was never my policy," Woodward said, adding those claims were out of proportion. "That was never anything that I wanted to do."
Just a week after that interview, Woodward's communications director Abra Belke stepped down, saying in a blog post her advice was "falling on deaf ears" and that the job gave her "a churning ulcer that burned [her] to [her] core." Woodward said she was disappointed by the post.
"It's unfortunate, because people in politics know -- that's like taboo, you don't do that," she said. "People come and go all the time... and the big pledge is -- you don't stab the candidate in the back on the way out."
At a recent debate, Woodward floated the idea of a "tent city" in Spokane -- an idea she says was brought to her by the director of The Guardians, a non-profit which staffed several warming centers last winter.
"When non-profits come to me and offer some ideas, I'm willing to listen to what those ideas are. That doesn't mean that I approved it, that I jumped on the Tent City bandwagon or anything like that," Woodward said. "But see, again, then the narrative changes and that's now become my policy. It never was."
When asked if she has learned anything about what she puts out in interviews and debates, Woodward said "I'm still gonna communicate the way I communicate. I can't control the way it's taken." She says she's putting the criticism behind her -- now focused on her transition to city hall as someone with no experience in local government.
"A lot of great people are going to assist me and I'm going to hire experts," Woodward said. "Good leaders surround themselves with people who are experts in their field and know even more than they do and I plan on doing that."
Woodward tells 4 News Now her first priority as mayor will be to find space for a new police precinct downtown instead of the Intermodal Center, which is something she is working on right now.
"They want to be downtown. I've talked with the police department," Woodward said. "I just did a ride-along and the officer I was with for five hours said 'if you get that precinct downtown, I want to be transferred to downtown. I want to help clean up downtown."
Woodward has built much of her campaign on the idea that downtown Spokane is unsafe, but said Thursday "Spokane is doing a lot of things right. Our downtown is very vibrant."
Woodward will move into the mayor's office in just about two months, after she is inaugurated on Dec. 30.
"I've proven to myself I can do a lot more than I ever could and that's with a lot of people who said I couldn't win this race," she said. "So, don't ever tell me I can't do something. I'll prove you wrong every single time."
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