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21 Most Influential People in the Inland Northwest

Intro by Erin Peterson

The word “influencer” has unique implications in our day and age, but ultimately, influence is won in our everyday words and actions through consistency and trust long-term. There are people who are doing compelling, community-changing work in our region that can go unnoticed by the greater community (but not for those who are impacted by their dynamic contributions), or it can launch them into local-stardom as a kind of celebrity with a devoted following.

When we discussed this honor as a team, we wanted to create a list of trusted individuals who you should know in Spokane in a variety of fields who are making a difference, and whose reputations for being forward-thinking and inclusive set them apart. 

The Most Influential People in the Inland Northwest

Profiles by Stephanie Regalado

Rick Clark – nonprofit

Giving Backpacks | Spokane Quaranteam

The man, the myth, the legend has single-handedly changed the way Spokane gives. Rick Clark’s 35,000+ Spokane Quaranteam angels have flown a little girl and her mom home for her final days and given gift cards to families of an entire school (and so much more), proving that light, indeed, attracts light. 

Luke Baumgarten – journalism

RANGE Media

If it’s an audacious desire for the elevation of arts, media, and truth-telling in our region, Luke Baumgarten’s hands are molding it. As a founder of Terrain and RANGE Media, and his latest venture – the Spokane Workers’ Cooperative, his enterprises break down barriers to access in order for all members of the community to progress into the spaces that make our city shine. 

Betsy Wilkerson – politics

SPOKANE CITY COUNCIL 

Leading the charge with civility, respect, and honor, Betsy Wilkerson is a steward of all in the pursuit of big, real, systemic change. With highly tuned ears and crystal clear vision, she knows how and where Spokane fails its citizens and speaks of opportunities for progression and an elevation that positively affect the collective. 

Rob Curley – journalism

The Spokesman-Review 

The region didn’t know what was in store for them when Rob Curley moved to Spokane to become the editor for The Spokesman-Review. Where most people prefer to avoid the discomforts of change, Rob blooms within it. His inquisitive nature, playful sense of storytelling, and empowering leadership have kept the newspaper relevant through challenging times. 

Mandi Price – entertainment 

Hollywood Producer

She grew her wings while walking on the soil of our city, and she’s been using them to soar ever since. As a sought-after producer of hits such as “Little Fires Everywhere” and the #1 show in America for its debut on Amazon Prime, “Daisy Jones & the Six,” Mandi Price proves that big dreams—even big Hollywood dreams—come true to those who believe in themselves and work their buns off. 

Rick Welliver – nonprofit

Spokane Boxing

Rick Welliver proves that if you build it where they are—and provide a safe, empowering space—they will come, and they will thrive. Where society forgets to make kids feel special, Rick steps in to help them see how marvelous they are while allowing them to express themselves physically, powerfully, and successfully. 

Celeste Shaw – food

Chaps Bakery

Where food is love, Celeste Shaw is the doting mother who watches over our region, warmly inviting us all into her beautiful Chaps Bakery home to fill our bellies with the deliciousness of fresh, unforgettable comfort food, and our hearts with an experience of old-fashioned, time- and truth-tested community.   

Julie Garcia – nonprofit

Jewels Helping Hands

Julie Garcia walks directly into the spaces most people turn away from. A fierce woman of compassion who sees and honors the humanity within everyone she encounters, Julie is particularly drawn to serve those who aren’t afforded the luxuries of safe places, nourishment, and the basic necessities most of us take for granted. 

Michelle Starry – philanthropy 

Starry Financial Group

Michelle Starry has been managing other people’s money for more than 25 years while scattering her own like fairy dust to support many Inland Northwest community organizations and nonprofits. She passionately invests her time to help strengthen the community and connect individuals and organizations to create beneficial partnerships.

Alison Collins – food

Boots Bakery & Lounge

Thanks to Alison Collins, no animals are harmed in the making of the city’s most succulently delicious vegan goods. As the owner of Boots Bakery and Lounge, Alison has created a humanity-centered space with a big heart for all, never turning away customers who may not be customarily welcomed at other establishments. 

Hayley Guenthner – journalism

KHQ

Hundreds of people reach out to “Help Me Hayley” every month hoping Hayley Guenthner will find a solution to a challenge, help solve a crime, or otherwise be an advocate. As an award-winning, fan-favorite reporter and anchor, Hayley has earned the trust of our region, making it a better, more hope-filled place for all. 

Hallie Burchinal – nonprofit 

Compassionate Addiction Treatment

As a previously unhoused person, Hallie Burchinal has a strong understanding of the importance of hope and community. As co-founder and executive director of Compassionate Addiction Treatment, Hallie is passionate about harm reduction, meeting people exactly where they are, street outreach, and supporting all paths to recovery. 

Ryan Oelrich – social justice

Priority Spokane

A part-time hobbit with the Spokane Hobbit House to prove it, Ryan Oelrich walks in big shoes as a nonprofit guru. Ryan is a community advocate who works as an agent and engine of positive change with the superpower of pulling people—and agencies—together for social service projects that create upstream impact and make the region a better place for all. 

Sharee Moss – food

Birdie’s Pie Shop

Sharee Moss learned how to build connections and love people through pies from an early age. Now, three years after making her dream come true of opening her own shop, Sharee’s pies are filled with a whole lot of heart, soul, and flavor and have been recognized as the best in the region and one of the best in the nation. 

Ginger Ewing – arts

Terrain

From the way she leads everything under the Terrain umbrella to the way she parents pugs, Ginger Ewing is art in motion. She and her small but mighty team build community and economic opportunity for artists, makers, and culture creators of the Inland Northwest to ensure these populations thrive, and that Spokane is a better, richer, more beautiful place. 

Stephaine Courtney – social justice

The Learning Project Network

Where representation was lacking locally, activist and creative Stephaine Courtney stepped in to write and publish Our Community: Black Leaders in Spokane as an illustrated book of representation and inspiration aimed to expose Black children to the possibility and promise that they, too, can be who and what they want.

Brennon Poynor – podcasting

Spokast!

Brennon Poynor shares the stories of Spokane—the people, the places, the happenings!— with thousands of fans on his flagship podcast, Spokast! As a podcast pro with the equipment to prove it, he produces 20 additional podcasts (with 10 more in pre-production), taking on the tech so podcasters can focus on the heart of their work. 

Gloria Ochoa-Bruck – justice

Spokane Municipal Court

With a rich career in community and public service as a lawyer and a judge, Gloria Ochoa-Bruck is a fierce advocate for justice, and for humanizing everyone who crosses her path or enters her courtroom. She brings a cultural perspective to the municipal court that Spokane hasn’t experienced before, and the community is better because of it. 

Esteban Herevia – social justice

Spokane Pride

Esteban Herevia is the loud and proud Spokane CEO promoting and empowering visible diversity for Spokane’s lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and citizens with identities beyond the binaries. He believes the most radical thing any of us can do is to maintain pride in ourselves, in our community, and in our identities—and we are here for it.

Shantell Jackson – arts

Spokane Arts

With curiosity and wonder as the hallmarks of her artistic process, Shantell Jackson creates new realities and provides reflections of the times through the practice of visual art and writing. Her work calls people into the art, sparking questions of themselves and the human condition that start new emotional journeys and provide beautiful, safe spaces for healing. 

Jennifer Vigil – philanthropy

MultiCare Health System – Inland NW

A talented executive by day, a lead vocalist by night, and a thoughtful philanthropist around the clock, Jennifer Vigil can always be found in the places and conversations that matter most. As a health equity and outreach program manager Jennifer works community-wide to ensure all citizens receive access to the health services they deserve.

Stephanie Regalado

STEPHANIE REGALADO has been slinging stories as an award-winning writer, publisher, editor, and media pro for brands, publications, and online platforms across the US for more than 20 years. Her first book, If They Only Knew, releases this spring, and features 50 stories showcasing the power and perseverance of women. She loves frolicking around the region with her big kids, little grands, and canine sidekick, Dixie. You can follow along via Instagram at @stephanie_regalado_writer. 

Follow stephanie on Instagram here

Erin Peterson, Editor-In-Chief

Erin Peterson grew up in Post Falls, Idaho and became a professionally certified educator – earning the Provost’s Award for academic achievement and community service from Lewis-Clark State College. Now she is an award-winning local influencer, podcaster and digital strategy educator with a passion for equity and inclusion. Erin has been published and featured in a wide variety of local publications including the Spokesman Review, The Inlander, and has served as an editor at Spokane Coeur d’Alene Living magazine. If you want to learn more about how she is making an impact right here in the Northwest, give her a follow on Instagram at @trending.northwest or Trending Northwest on Facebook.

Read all of Erin’s articles on TNW here.

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2 Comments

  1. I didn’t see Robyn Nance with KXLY who works with Teen Closet as well as Wedneday Child that helps kids in foster care get adopted.

    1. Hey Noreen, thanks for the suggestions and we’ll take them into account for next year’s Most Influential list. We could only fit so many people into one event for this year 🙂 Did you like the list otherwise?
      -Melissa, Co-owner
      Trending Northwest

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