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Community News 12/25/09
Founding council members say goodbye
By Mike Huffman
ne Valley News Editor

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“Welcome to the end of an era.”

With those words, Mayor Richard Munson opened the final Spokane Valley City Council meeting for himself and Council Members Diana Wilhite and Dick Denenny on Tuesday night.

And, to drive the point home, Munson said it again at the end of the meeting.
The agenda – what there was of it -- was a light one. Bills were paid after a few brief committee reports.

Plaques were awarded by Council Member Bill Gothmann, who shared memories of each of those leaving, including Robertson. Photo by: Mike Huffman

Then, still munching on cake from a reception beforehand, the departing council members waxed nostalgic on the seven-plus years since the passage of incorporation in 2002, the hard work that followed and they even gave a bit of advice to the newcomers who will take their seats in 2010.

“Be deliberate and not reactive,” Munson said, adding, “We will support you.”
Munson and former Mayor Wilhite lost in the general election to Brenda Grassel and Bob McCaslin, respectively, who are part of a coalition of “Positive Change” candidates who will take over in January. Denenny, who chose not to run again for office, will be replaced by Tom Towey, another in the Positive Change camp, who ran unopposed.

Other Positive Change affiliates – who ran on a platform of fiscal conservativism and opposition to the Sprague-Appleway Revitalization Plan – already on the council are Dean Grafos, who bested appointed Council Member Ian Robertson in November, and incumbent Gary Schimmels.
Schimmels -- a member of the “Original Seven” council -- reminded those in attendance that he wasn’t “going away.”

“Thanks again for your service,” he told Munson, Wilhite and Denenny.

Attendance at the meeting was large, especially for one three days before Christmas. Steve Taylor – a founding council member who stepped down in June to take the city administrator job in Connell, which opened up the spot that Robertson was appointed to – also had words for his former colleagues.

“Your leadership will be sorely missed,” Taylor said. “”You’ve set a great example.”

Also present was the city’s first mayor, Mike DeVleming. The final member of the council’s founding fathers, Mike Flanigan, passed away in 2008.

Plaques were awarded by Council Member Bill Gothmann, who shared memories of each of those leaving, including Robertson.

“He taught me that to serve God, you serve your fellow citizens,” Gothmann said.

Denenny recalled the hectic night the council held its first official meeting and was sworn in back in November 2002. At that time the council made its first official decision: to open a checking account at Farmers & Merchants Bank.

“It’s like we were starting a new project. We didn’t know what we were going to end up with,” Denenny said. “We were blessed.”

Munson said it had been a “heckuva run” and had kind words for the city manager, who had risen to the top of over 150 applicants.

“I can’t tell you how proud I’ve been to work with a man like David Mercier,” Munson said.

Mercier joked, “I can’t tell you what a relief it is to stand before you for the last time.”

He then remarked how he believed he had been a part of a group almost like a “championship sports team” that had made history by laying the groundwork for a city after the largest incorporation in Washington state history.

“You’ve left an indelible mark,” Mercier said. “I wish you the best life has to offer.”

Before the meeting’s close, Munson said he “never enjoyed a group hug like I have tonight.”

Denenny – like he had many times in the past – moved for adjournment. The motion was seconded by Gothmann.

“It’s the end of an era,” Munson said. “We’re adjourned.”

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