October 26, 1997 in Features

At Ease If You Can’t Take The Heat, Get Out Of Jack Geraghty’s Kitchen

Virginia De Leon Staff writer
 

When they cast politics aside, one hops on a bicycle and hits the Centennial Trail, while the other pulls out his cookbooks and fires up the stove. They may not agree on much that goes on at City Hall, but Jack Geraghty and John Talbott have at least one thing in common: They both live full lives outside the public arena. Here’s a look at the private sides of Spokane’s mayoral candidates.

Put Jack Geraghty in the kitchen and the man feels right at home.

No one calls him “Mayor” when he’s sauteing chicken breasts in wine and tarragon.

In this domain, he’s known as “Jack” or “Dad,” the guy who cooks gourmet food on camping trips, who clears the dinner table when everyone’s through.

This is the man who surrounds himself with cookbooks on his days off, who considers Julia Child his role model.

In public, Geraghty may be the distinguished 63-year-old with straight, silvery hair and a calm, gentlemanly demeanor. But wrap an apron around his waist and put a frying pan in his hand, and Geraghty reveals another side.

He loosens up in his South Hill apartment, a modest two-bedroom pad covered with art: eclectic abstracts, watercolors of sailboats, Japanese fans and other Oriental objects.

Watching him standing before a stove with jazz playing softly in the background, it’s easy to forget Geraghty the politician - the man who at 29 became the youngest county commissioner elected in Spokane history.

It’s easier to think of him as the father of four daughters, a jazz fan whose CD collection is broad enough to include Carly Simon and Eric Clapton “Unplugged.”

“He’s always been Dad,” daughter Sheila Leek said one recent evening, passing the vinegar oil and other spices to her father. “Poor Dad, he was the only guy (in the family).”

“Oh, it wasn’t so bad,” Geraghty interjected.

“But he’s always been an inspiration to me and my sisters,” Leek said. “He gave us a lot of support…. Dad taught us self-discipline. He kept saying, ‘No more dinking around.”’

“I say that to (City Manager) Bill Pupo, too,” Geraghty joked, waving a wooden spoon.

“Did you thump him on the head like you did to us?” Leek asked jokingly.

Geraghty isn’t known as a head-thumper in this town.

He’s an even-tempered guy whose conciliatory style contrasts with the brash, in-your-face manner of his challenger, John Talbott.

“Jack’s not the kind of guy who’ll pound on his chest and use the soapbox of the mayorship,” said his good friend Mike Ormsby, a local attorney and fellow Eastern Washington University trustee. “He encourages discussion instead of argument. He wants you to think about the other person’s perspective.

“He’s an astute judge of human character…. He’s always trying to learn.”

Everyone wants a piece of the mayor. He’s there at neighborhood parades, banquets, community forums. He shows up with a polite smile and a city proclamation to make the event official.

To some people, he is City Hall, the man to be blamed for potholes and other perceived problems.

People badmouth him constantly in letters to the editor. Some say he’s bland, a little on the boring side. They criticize him for his even temper, saying he’s wimpy, too afraid of confrontation.

Former City Councilman Joel Crosby recently told a reporter that “(Geraghty’s) leadership style is - he doesn’t lead. He’s accommodating but he doesn’t supply direction.”

But supporters say his conciliatory approach is one of his biggest assets.

“Jack believes we can accomplish a lot more by understanding each other than by creating divisions between people,” said Jim Ray, chairman of public facilities, who has known Geraghty since 1955. “He doesn’t yell or threaten to get you to understand his position. I can’t recall Jack ever raising his voice to me.”

There’s no bravado in his actions, Geraghty fans say, just an aura of silent confidence.

And he likes it that way. He wants to find common ground, he said, a place “between a whisper and a shout.”

“I try to find the middle ground where people work together.”

Geraghty also isn’t into one-liners or television soundbites. In fact, he’s prone to droning.

Because he’s mayor, people sometimes forget he’s a human being, said Leek, the youngest of Geraghty’s daughters. Though he’s often misunderstood by the public, Geraghty has a good heart, said Ray.

When Ray and his wife lost their first granddaughter, Geraghty was one of the first people who showed up at the door. “His support was spiritual,” Ray said. “He was there when we needed him.”

Friends may make fun of his golf game, but they also speak of him like some kind of champion, a political superhero in a two-piece suit, a mild-mannered man who often rises to the occasion.

Take away all the mayoral hype and Geraghty is simply an Irishman, said his brother, Spokane lawyer Mike Geraghty. The mayor’s office sports gold four-leaf clovers on the wall. Many of the books on his shelves at home and at work have Ireland somewhere in their titles.

He has a good sense of humor and respect for people, Mike Geraghty said. “We’re both Irish golfers and best friends. We comfort each other when things go wrong.”

With the campaign, his duties at City Hall, and his public relations firm, Jack Geraghty & Associates, the mayor has little time for a social life these days. He golfs when he gets the chance and loves to sail, despite the loss of his 28-foot boat as a casualty of a divorce-in-progress.

His separation from his wife, Marlene, was very painful, he said. Just four years ago, he ran his campaign as a family man, with photos of him and his wife in the newspaper.

It’s a touchy subject, especially since Geraghty was found in contempt of court for failing to pay support payments to his estranged wife. The dispute has since been resolved.

At one point Geraghty was so delinquent on a $165,000 line of credit from Washington Trust Bank that the bank said it considered the loan “a loss.” He said he’s still making payments.

“The end of my marriage was a sad thing in my life,” Geraghty said. “It was very painful, but it’s behind me now…. We’ve stayed together as a family…. Since my separation, I’ve given my total self to my job.”

Geraghty moved into his lower South Hill apartment three years ago after the separation. Since then, he’s been linked romantically with Kerry Lynch, president of Alliance Pacific Inc., a public relations firm. She used to work for Geraghty.

They don’t talk about their relationship, but they’re often seen together in public. Geraghty acknowledges Lynch’s support and her work on his campaign.

“She is a very, very close friend,” he said. “We are companions and she’s been very supportive.”

Geraghty would rather discuss his accomplishments as mayor, especially with an election looming.

He likes to invoke his grandfather’s memory for inspiration. A populist from Spokane’s 3rd District, the late James Geraghty was elected to the Legislature in 1897. He later became a Washington Supreme Court judge.

“He was such a larger-than-life person,” said Geraghty, who keeps a black-and-white photo of his grandfather in his office. “He loved politics.”

Just like his grandson. After a two-decade hiatus from politics, Geraghty couldn’t resist trying to return to public office four years ago.

The Spokane native and North Central High School graduate was already well-connected and considered successful. Some of his past jobs include: cops and courts reporter for the Spokane Daily Chronicle; publisher of a Spokane alternative newspaper, The Falls; public relations director for Expo ‘74.

Most people would’ve settled down, said his friend and campaign manager, Chris Marr, the general manager of a local car dealership. But politics isn’t just a hobby for Geraghty, Marr said; it’s his life.

“Spokane is a beautiful city with a great quality of life,” Geraghty said. “But not everyone shares that. Some people don’t have very happy lives here.”

It’s his duty to help change that, he said.

, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: 2 Photos (1 color)

MEMO: See candidate profile under the headline: Jack Geraghty

See story about John Talbott under the headline: At ease / Whether biking or campaigning, John Talbott delights in a tight race

See candidate profile under the headline: Jack Geraghty

See story about John Talbott under the headline: At ease / Whether biking or campaigning, John Talbott delights in a tight race


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