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Bloomsday race director, two board members, leave non-profit in leadership conflict

Doug Nadvornick/SPR
Former Spokane Bloomsday race director Jon Neill addresses a crowd before a Bloomsday event.

The leader of Spokane’s iconic Lilac Bloomsday Run has left the organization, along with two board members.

Jon Neill took over from Bloomsdays long-time leader, and founder, Don Kardong in 2020, but was removed from his leadership position several weeks ago.

Neill, who declined an interview but issued a statement, said the board of directors for Bloomsday voted to remove him as race director and offer him an alternate position at the non-profit, which he declined.

“It was an honor to serve as the Race Director for what I consider to be the best race in America,” he said, “I have no other plans or new employment as it was my intention to continue to lead this race and Jr. Bloomsday for many years to come”

Steven Jones was one of two board members who resigned over the decision, saying he disagreed. Jones has been involved in the event for decades. He also previously was the organization before becoming a board member.

He said he resigned over concerns about the decision to remove Neill, whom he says found ways to keep the race going through two challenging pandemic years.

“I thought that should have been celebrated rather than what I thought were minor issues about his leadership role,” Jones said.

He says despite the change in leadership, he’s still believes next year will be a strong, community event.

“I think Bloomsday is bigger than the board and all of us, and its role in Spokane is so special, and so important that I do think it'll continue to thrive,” Jones said.

Board President Dori Whitford said in a statement that Bloomsday, the organization would not discuss personnel issues, but confirmed Neill was no longer with the non-profit and that an internal restructuring is planned.

“We have been busy preparing for Bloomsday 2023,” she said, “Jon Neill has chosen to step away from our organization. Bloomsday and its affiliated events have become a big job. Because of this opportunity we will now also be looking at ways to possibly restructure some of our jobs.”