Before his second term as mayor of Spokane ended last year, David Condon did something he hadn’t in years – compiled his work history.
“I hadn’t done a resume in 15 years,” says Condon, whose first day at work with Premera Blue Cross, his new employer, was Feb. 10.
Condon says he chuckled to himself while scrolling Indeed.com last fall looking for work. He had only heard of the online employment website after a city of Spokane job fair a few years ago.
But Premera clearly had heard of him before he applied to be the organization’s vice president of Eastern Washington.
Condon was picked among an applicant pool that reached the century mark and included local high-profile candidates and other big names from around the country, claims Jeff Roe, Premera’s president and CEO.
Roe used a sports analogy to explain Condon’s hire.
“It’s sort of like the best athlete available in the draft,” he says. “I don’t know exactly what position he’ll play, but he’s the most talented, so let’s get him on the team. I think, in David, we got that.”
Premera has been active in recent months expanding its initiatives in Eastern Washington, many of which are in Spokane. Roe sees Condon as someone who can help Premera grow its business model here.
Condon will be based at 3900 E. Sprague, which serves as the company’s Spokane headquarters. Premera has close to 700 employees in Spokane now. Premera today provides health benefits to nearly 2 million people, including more than 260,000 in Eastern Washington.
Last year, Premera developed Peak Care in tandem with Tacoma-based MultiCare Health Systems. Roe says the partnership is an integrated model in which the two organizations share revenue and loss.
Under a Peak Care plan, a patient’s doctors, specialists, and hospitals work together to streamline care and keep costs as low as possible.
“We’re on the same side of the table, and that’s unusual in health care,” he says. “We hope for it to be a relationship and even more of a partnership. We think these sorts of tight partnerships with the delivery system are essential for health care to actually work better,” says Roe.
Last month, Premera announced its plans to open a new health care clinic later this year at 1601 N. Division, in a space near Gonzaga University that Einstein’s Bagels once occupied. The new clinic will operate under the name Vivacity Care Center. An official opening date hasn’t been determined for the clinic.
The health insurance provider has teamed up with Seattle-based Vera Whole Health, a health care provider that develops and operates primary-care centers, to open its second such location in Spokane. The first center opened at the start of the year at 9001 N. Country Homes Blvd., on Spokane’s North Side.
Roe says Condon’s background is what the organization needs, even if his immediate job duties haven’t been more clearly defined.
“We’ve got some major business initiatives here, and we need talent to help push that forward,” says Roe, who was in Spokane for part of Condon’s first week.
Adds Roe, “We don’t have A through Z outlined for him. We view David as an essential and instrumental part of our company for the long haul and I hope he welcomes that. This is sort of about what’s possible, not what is.”
Premera in recent months has invested $10.5 million in grants to Washington State University Elson S. Floyd College of Medicine and Empire Health Foundation to support programs improving access to care in rural communities in Eastern Washington.
Roe is based at Premera’s headquarters in Mountlake Terrace, Washington, 14 miles north of downtown Seattle. Condon reports directly to Bill Akers, who heads what Premera calls its Washington market group business. Akers, a Spokane native, spends an equal amount of time on both sides of the state.
Akers and Condon are both graduates of Gonzaga Preparatory High School. Akers has been with Premera for 16 years. He moved back to Spokane from the West Side in 2004 to serve as district administrator, where part of his position entailed working in health care provider contracting, he says.
Akers was appointed to his current job more than five years ago.
Akers echoes Roe’s sentiments on the selection of Condon.
“We had a really strong applicant pool,” he says. “We had people who had fantastic resumes from all over the country, but they weren’t going to be considered, because one of our initial filters was that you had to know the local market.”
Roe says, given Premera’s commitment to Eastern Washington, the organization wanted a strong leader who is familiar with this region.
Premera executives believe Condon has transferrable skills that will be realized effectively and quickly in his new position.
“He, as former mayor, has had interest in things like rural health care and addressing the importance of access to it,” Akers says.
Roe and Akers say Jack Heath, president and COO of Washington Trust Bank, who also serves as chairman of Premera’s board of directors, strongly recommended Condon for his new position.
Roe says he had a strong suspicion Condon would be a strong candidate for the job based on his own past work history. Roe’s career began as a legislative aide to former U.S. Senator Slade Gorton, R-Washington.
“Some of the people I worked around were among the brightest and most talented I’d encountered,” he says.
Roe says Condon displays many of the attributes he saw in them.
“Their ability to take complex subjects and distill them down into something digestible and actionable was really impressive,” Roe says.
“When you’re in politics, you have a laser-like focus on who your customer is because you’re not there without their consent,” he says.
Roe says Premera is eager to grow the business east of the Cascades.
“Bill (Akers) and another colleague of ours lead those efforts, but they’re not here full time—David is,” says Roe.
In addition to building customer service, Roe says Premera wants to be a destination employer on both sides of the state. The five-building corporate headquarter site on the West Side is being revamped. One building has been taken down and will be replaced with a new campus hub.
“David will be part of evaluating that long-term plan for Spokane,” he says.
Condon says the ability to continue to have a positive influence on the community is what prompted him to apply for the position last October.
“You get really selfish of wanting to continue to have impact,” Condon says.
A Gonzaga Prep graduate, Condon served in the U.S. Army for eight years and retired as a captain. From 2005 to 2011, he worked as the deputy chief of staff for Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers’ office before running for mayor.
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