Path 4Ward: Mayor Woodward shares her experience navigating the COVID-19 pandemic

SPOKANE, Wash. — A year ago at this time, Nadine Woodward was a retired journalist on the campaign trail. 

Now, she’s overseeing Washington’s second largest city through the biggest health and economic crisis in generations. 

She sat down with her former co-anchor Aaron Luna to talk about an uncertain Path 4Ward. 

Aaron Luna: You started a job, you’re getting in the swing of things, and the pandemic hit. Was there a point in time where you’re like, what did I get myself into? 

Mayor Woodward: I’ve had a lot of people ask me ‘did you know you were gonna get into this?’ Yeah, nobody ever knows, Aaron. 

Woodward took office with zero experience in local politics. 

MW: I was able to do a lot of things early on in the administration, and that was hire a great team and I’ve really leaned on my team. 

Then, less than two months after taking office, she had to lead the city through a global pandemic. 

AL: Let’s talk a little about what your normal day looks like. I know there’s no such thing right now, there’s no normal, but what do you do on a daily basis? 

MW: I’ll just tell you, early on in our COVID response, when we stood up the operation center, we went pretty much a month without taking a day off. And the city established an incident management team two weeks before we even stood up the EOC. 

The first case of COVID-19 hit, then the first death. 

People put on masks and businesses closed their doors. Finally, two months later, Spokane has moved into phase two of the state’s reopening plan. 

AL: When you look at getting Spokane back up and running, what is the issue that takes priority, which fires do you put out first? 

NW: That’s a great question. We put a lot of fires out, to get, all the time. I, you know, right now our priority in addition to economic recovery has been sheltering our, offering healthy shelters to our vulnerable population. 

The Spokane Arena proved to be that shelter. It will stay that way until August, while the city makes plans to help those who lost their jobs. 

MW: We’re looking at rental assistance programs right now. That’s our next move and then just supporting businesses and what that looks like in each phase. And meeting with businesses and asking them to be patient as we work with the governor to move through these phases a little quicker on the east side of the state because we are’t Seattle. 

AL: What sort of revenue loss is the city looking at from the shutdown and does that translate into programs cut or employees cut? 

MW: Yeah, so right now the city of Spokane is, we have a hiring freeze. We’re looking at our expenditures, we’re looking at refinancing debt and the good thing is that we are looking at huge drop in revenue citywide. It’s about 16% right now. Of course, that’s changing as months go by. 

Which means that $13 million in lost income for the city will get bigger. 

MW: Right now, no layoffs, so that’s not part of the conversation. We have asked for different divisions to start doing some exercises. Six percent cut, 12 percent cut. Six percent? More likely. Twelve percent? Maybe worst case scenario. 

A growing crisis that would test even the most experienced mayor. One thing Mayor Woodward hasn’t gone through yet? 

AL: Have you been tested for COVID-19? 

MW: I haven’t. I wanted to get tested for the antibodies, though. I’ve been exposed to a lot of people, I’m in this community, I think it would be interesting to see if I have the antibodies.

RELATED: Path 4Ward: Spokane Co. health officer says pandemic safety measures likely the new normal

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