When Ruth Swain retired from her job as Community and Economic Development Director for West Richland on March 7, city officials were concerned how to fill her shoes.
Their concerns vanished after Russ Connole, 45, applied and interviewed for the job. He started work March 24 at an annual salary of $92,000.
"We were very fortunate to find him," Mayor Brent Gerry said. "His background is well-rounded and everything we need in that position. We're all excited, and hope he'll pick up the ball where Ruth left off and keep running to the end zone."
Swain helped jump-start the redevelopment and cleanup of the Van Giesen Street corridor and the Yakima River gateway into the city. She also encouraged city staff and the council to update the municipal code and enforce it to get property owners to clean up weeds and old vehicles and generally create better, cleaner neighborhoods.
Connole's goal is to work and build off the development plans already in place by Swain, the council and city staff, he said.
He wants to improve and add to river trails and walking paths throughout the city, he said.
"My focus is on quality of life and a trail system is important to enhance the esthetic value of the community," he said.
He's also looking to enhance the Red Mountain business district by attracting businesses connected to the wine industry to locate there.
"We need to get that area developed. One way is to get the wine effluent treatment facility built to service that district," Connole said.
Connole had been working as project manager for engineering and roads for Spokane County for the past six years. While in that position he served as chairman of the 18-city Eastern Region Stormwater Coordinators Group and worked with the Department of Ecology on projects including trail systems improvements in the county.
He was also project manager for the Eastern Washington Low Impact Development Manual, completed in 2013.
"It covers a lot of green and environmentally low impact design. Its purpose is to guide planners in considering the impact on the environment and show how to utilize natural systems and designs," Connole said.
"I want to do a lot of the same things with the projects West Richland has been looking at over the past several years," he said.
Gerry said Connole has worked in the past with Roscoe Slade, the city's public works director, and with Nancy Aldrich, special projects coordinator for Richland and chairwoman for West Richland's Planning Commission. He's also worked on projects with the staff of several other municipalities in the Tri-City area.
"I've been in public service a little over 20 years," Connole said. "It's really what I'm comfortable with. I know how to work with regional groups and look forward to coordinating with the different economic development groups in this area on projects. I plan to contribute to the progress of West Richland and the region."
Gerry said what impressed him about Connole is, "he has the same goals, vision and drive and desire to get things done as the rest of the city staff."
-- Loretto J. Hulse: 582-1513; firstname.lastname@example.org