Spokane Journal of Business

The Journal’s View: Mark Richard will leave DSP in good shape for next leader

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It will be a monumental task to replace Mark Richard, the outgoing CEO and president of the Downtown Spokane Partnership, with a person of similar quality to carry on the important work of the organization.

Richard announced last week he’s leaving the DSP in mid-February to relocate to Tampa, Florida, where he’s accepted a position with the United Soccer League as its vice president of expansion and real estate.

The DSP board says it plans to launch a nationwide search for a new leader.

Present and past board members and colleagues laud Richard for taking the lead and bringing stability to the organization, starting nine years ago, following the departure of the former DSP president who held the position for just under a year.

“He came in at a tumultuous time and gave it great direction,” says Chris Batten, interim DSP board chair. “He was able to pick up and run with it, build a team, and go from there.”

DSP oversees the downtown Business Improvement District, which includes hundreds of businesses and property owners in an 80-block area, as well as the neighboring University District.

The organization’s main mission is to maintain and improve a clean, safe, and vibrant downtown. That core task has been especially challenging during the pandemic, when fewer people have been working downtown and the homeless population has become more visible.

Juliet Sinesterra, CEO of the University District Development Association and former DSP staffer, says Richard has worked tirelessly to build bridges between the business community, public officials, and service providers regarding homelessness. “Mark has put his heart and soul into trying to deal with that effectively,” she says. “Whoever follows is going to need to be a collaborator.”

Under Richard’s tenure, DSP also has collaborated with stakeholders on addressing parking issues, developing the Riverfront Park master plan, championing the University Gateway Bridge, and supporting the new downtown police precinct.

Richard also was instrumental in the effort to relocate the Joe Albi replacement stadium to its new site in the North Bank area near the Spokane Veterans Memorial Arena, an effort many say likely wouldn’t have come to fruition without him.

Dave Black, CEO of NAI Black and past chairman of the DSP board, says the organization is in a good position for the next leader to take the helm, as Richard has worked with former DSP board chair Roy Koegen on a five-year contract extension recently approved by the Spokane City Council. The agreement includes plans to expand the BID south to Fourth Avenue, providing service south of the railroad viaduct that slices through the core.

Richard brought a strong experience to the DSP, having served two terms as Spokane County commissioner, with prior work in government affairs for the Spokane Home Builders Association and Spokane Association of Realtors, and a decade of work in real estate sales.

As a Spokane native who grew up here and who graduated from Spokane schools and Eastern Washington University, he’s demonstrated a lifelong commitment to Spokane and its business community.

Now it’s up to the DSP board to find a replacement with that kind of commitment.

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