In December 2005, Bill Gothmann took the oath of office as the newest representative of the Spokane Valley City Council. This month, he will depart the dais as one of the most respected leaders in the city’s brief history.
Gothmann, a former professor at Eastern Washington University, announced earlier this year that he would not run for re-election. He will be replaced by Ben Wick, who defeated Marilyn Cline on the November general election ballot.
Photo by Craig Howard
Spokane Valley Mayor Tom Towey said Gothmann set a standard for thoroughly researching topics that affected the city and its residents.
“Whenever we were looking for stats or background on an issue, Bill was the one we went to,” the mayor said. “He really does his homework.”
In addition to his scrupulous approach to municipal matters, Gothmann stepped up to support local causes throughout his tenure as a councilman. In 2007, he donated $10,000 of his own money toward a new community center in the Edgecliff area, supplementing a contribution of $20,000 from the city.
In typical fashion, Gothmann deferred acclaim for the bequest, instead emphasizing the strides made by Edgecliff residents to restore public safety and civic pride in their neighborhood.
“Those folks have done a fabulous job of cleaning up their community,” Gothmann said. “I’ve really been impressed with what the residents have done and give them credit. They’ve set an example for the rest of the city.”
Gothmann, 73, said he plans to travel with his wife of 56 years, Myrna. The couple are parents to three grown children. Gothmann does not anticipate being in the crowd at council meetings as he was prior to being elected in 2005. Gothmann served as an inaugural member of the city’s Planning Commission after incorporation in 2003.
When Mike Flanigan, one of the original seven to comprise the first City Council, announced he would not run for re-election, Gothmann threw his hat into the ring. He was one of half-a-dozen candidates in the September 2005 primary election and moved on to the November ballot with Ed Mertens – a community catalyst in the incorporation effort – by procuring 24 percent of the vote.
“I’ve never considered myself too politically astute,” Gothmann said. “To me, politics is about what we can put together, something we can all agree upon.”
Gothmann recalled the race with Mertens as a amiable contest that featured mutual respect instead of mudslinging.
“Ed and I became friends,” Gothmann said. “I really learned to appreciate him.”
When Mertens was injured in an car accident during the campaign, Gothmann made sure to check up on his opponent. After Gothmann was elected to office, earning 54 percent of the vote, the two remained in contact.
“Ed often called and offered advice and encouragement,” Gothmann said.
Gothmann also counts the late Rich Munson, former Spokane Valley mayor and council member, as a mentor who provided support and insight during his early municipal career. Munson helped with Gothmann’s first campaign for office and always took the time to discuss issues and protocol, regardless of his schedule. Gothmann still wears Munson’s old pin emblazoned with the Association of Washington Cities logo on his lapel.
“Rich was a great guy and a good friend,” he said.
The author of five books, Gothmann was known for stressing education and communication throughout his time with the city. He led the charge to televise council meetings and distributed a synopsis called of weekly gatherings at City Hall called “Notes and Comments” to citizens via e-mail.
“I started those notes because I was convinced we needed to communicate better,” Gothmann said. “I felt like people didn’t understand what the city issues were.”
A self-described “lifelong learner,” Gothmann devoted himself to improving as a leader, earning a gold-level certificate of achievement in leadership from the National League of Cities as well as a certificate in municipal leadership from the Association of Washington Cities.
When a quartet of new council members joined the governing board in January 2010, Gothmann found himself in the minority of most decisions, outweighed by a group calling itself “Positive Change.” Gothmann admits he often felt “marginalized” in the scenario but remained focused on his work.
Towey – part of the Positive Change majority – said Gothmann earned the respect of others at the dais, despite a variance in views.
“Bill and I may have had differences in opinion, but I was always able to talk to him and he always had great advice,” Towey said.
A native of Spokane, Gothmann graduated from North Central High School and attended Whitworth College, eventually transferring to Gonzaga where he earned a degree in electrical engineering. In 1972, he earned his master’s in teaching from Whitworth and in 1984, added a master’s in business administration from Eastern Washington University. He taught at Spokane Community College and Eastern, spending approximately 10 years at each school. He also worked for nearly a decade as an engineer and served in the Air National Guard.
In his time on the City Council, Gothmann served on a variety of boards advising such agencies such as the Spokane Regional Health District, Spokane Neighborhood Action Programs, Transportation Improvement Board and Spokane County Housing and Development Advisory Committee. He will continue to volunteer for SNAP as part of
next year’s capital facilities campaign.
At a meeting of the Housing and Development Advisory Committee in November, Spokane County Commissioner Todd Mielke saluted Gothmann for his example of dedicated service to the community.
“You truly are a class act,” Mielke said.