A soft-spoken neighborhood activist won the hearts of Spokane City Council members - and a place beside them on the council podium.
Council members unanimously chose Indian Trail resident Cherie Rodgers on Friday to serve the remaining year of Chris Anderson’s council term.
Rodgers, 49, serves on the city’s Plan Commission and helped draft the Indian Trail land-use plan. She’s been active on issues ranging from managing growth to ending grass burning.
“She brings a fresh voice. She represents the North Side,” said Mayor Jack Geraghty. “And she’s shown by her work on the Plan Commission she’s knowledgeable about the issues facing the city.”
“She’s a very gracious lady who has the ability to bring people to the table that other people don’t,” said Councilwoman Phyllis Holmes. “She has a strong neighborhood base as well.”
The council spent nearly four hours Friday interviewing the six candidates for the vacant seat they’d selected from a field of 41 applicants. The others interviewed were Judith Gilmore, Rob Higgins, Jim Kolva, Jim Ray and John Talbott.
“I’m really terribly impressed with all six of them,” said Councilman Orville Barnes.
In the end, Rodger’s quiet, studied approach to difficult issues swayed the council’s decision.
“She can deal with contentious issues but she doesn’t alienate people,” said Holmes.
“I’m more of a listener than a talker,” Rodgers told the council.
Rodgers, a member of the Blackfeet Indian Tribe, was raised on a reservation in western Montana. “Coming to Spokane was like coming to New York City,” she said.
Her husband was in the Air Force, and the couple moved 16 times in 14 years, settling in Spokane in 1986. When her husband died two years later, Rodgers devoted her time to raising her three children, now teenagers, and a foster child who joined the family two years ago.
Her opposition to plans for a grocery “superstore” in the Indian Trail shopping center pushed the full-time homemaker into community activism in the early 1990s.
Attending public hearings became her favorite pastime, and she didn’t limit herself to northwest Spokane issues. She sat in on meetings about everything from a Tidyman’s proposed for East Central to a McDonald’s planned for the Logan area.
She spent four years working with developers and neighborhood residents on the Indian Trail Specific Plan.
“I really like reading about land use or the Clean Air Act,” Rodgers said, prompting laughter from the council.
Rodgers wouldn’t commit to running again when Anderson’s term expires at the end of this year. “I’d like to see how this goes,” she said with a grin.
Asked her vision for the city, she responded quickly: “I’d like to keep it a place where people want to stay - or some day come back to.”
Rodgers will earn $18,000 a year in the council seat Anderson resigned from on Dec. 31. After missing 21 meetings from May 28 to Nov. 4, he moved with his wife and three daughters from Spokane last month and refused to say where he was going.
“The next 11 months and seven days will probably be a fun time compared to what the last two and a half have been,” said Councilman Mike Brewer.
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