Spokane Journal of Business

What’s Happening With: former Downtown Spokane Partnership CEO Mark Richard

Administrative role opens at city of Largo, Florida, after he leaves USL post

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Former Downtown Spokane Partnership CEO Mark Richard left Spokane a year ago to take an executive position with the United Soccer League, in Tampa, Florida.

He has left that job, and now works as the new downtown administrator for city of Largo, Florida.

Richard had advocated for the stadium currently under construction in Spokane’s North Bank area and pitched the USL on bringing expansion teams to play there, which the league committed to doing. Shortly thereafter, Richard was offered a position with the USL in Florida and accepted, but he says he had been with the league for about three months when he realized the job wasn’t a good fit.

“We came to a mutual understanding that what I had envisioned … and what I would be doing was quite different,” he says. “It wasn’t making sense for them and for me.”

He stepped aside from that job last May but remained in Florida, where he intends to reside permanently.

Richard says he spent a good part of the summer with family, including time at the beach, before the opportunity with the city of Largo opened up.

“It’s one of the best things that ever happened to me,” he says of his time in Florida leading up to the current job, which started in November. “Typically, that’s what I find in life: When you make yourself uncomfortable is when you find the biggest rewards.”

Another example of finding reward through discomfort, he says, occurred when he retired from public office in 2012 after serving two terms as a Spokane County commissioner, as he didn’t have a job lined up when he decided not to run for a third term. However, he says, he hit the ground running, when he began leading the DSP here barely a week after leaving office.

He says the downtown administrator position in Largo has similarities with his former DSP position.

“The subject matter is almost identical, but I’m working in a different landscape,” he says. “I’m now trying to get to know businessowners and our staff and what spaces are available for lease and development. I’m meeting folks in the community and building relationships and having conversations with folks who are interested in developing and investing in the community.”

One difference between the jobs is that, in Largo, Richard is working in City Hall as a city employee, whereas DSP is more directly a business advocacy organization.

Largo is the fourth largest city in the Tampa Bay area, with about 82,500 residents, and the entire Tampa area has a population exceeding 3 million.

He says the Tampa area is geographically more protected from flooding and other storm impacts than south and east parts of Florida.

“The immediate Largo area hasn’t been hit by a major storm in recent years, but it’s in the realm of possibility,” he says.

Each city employee is designated as a secondary emergency responder, he says. “This will be the normal course of life for me as a city employee.”

Richard has returned to visit the Lilac City once since moving to Florida.

That visit was in December, in part to celebrate the life of close friend and former Spokane City Council member Steve Salvatori, who died in November.

“I got to see a lot of friends and colleagues and had a lot of laughs, and a few tears,” he says.

Four years earlier, Richard had visited Salvatori, who had retired in Florida. The visit cemented Richard’s desire to “move to the tropics.”

“This is really a dream come true for my family and for myself,” he says of his move to Florida. “I’ve had this vision of living near the ocean and in a warmer climate for as long as I’ve known my wife, Wendy. We’ve been together 30 years, now.”

Despite living in his dream location, Richard says he’ll always be fond of Spokane.

“I love Spokane still. It’s where I was born,” he says. “I lived my entire life for the most part in Spokane and certainly miss it.”

Mike McLean
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Deputy Editor Mike McLean has worked his entire journalism career in the Inland Northwest. Mike, who also lives to reel in fish and crank up music, has worked for the Journal since 2006.

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