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Flanigan a ‘strong advocate’

 (The Spokesman-Review)
Flanigan (The Spokesman-Review)

One of Spokane Valley’s founding city councilmen, Mike Flanigan, was to be remembered today in two services.

The City Council rescheduled a special meeting so members could attend Flanigan’s funeral at 2 p.m. at Thornhill Valley Chapel and a memorial service that will follow at University High School.

A 1972 graduate of Central Valley High School, Flanigan volunteered for the U-Hi gymnastics team and numerous civic projects.

His death Sunday came about two months before the fifth anniversary of Spokane Valley’s incorporation.

He had “a Valley heart,” said Jayne Singleton, director of the Spokane Valley Heritage Museum. She said Flanigan was a “major supporter” of the 2 1/2-year-old museum.

Flanigan, 53, died of what family members suspect was a heart attack. He had heart disease that required quadruple bypass surgery when he was 47.

Outgoing Mayor Diana Wilhite described Flanigan as “a strong, outspoken advocate for the community” who left his “thumbprint” on the fledgling city’s future. Among other accomplishments during a two-year term on the city’s first council, he helped develop a comprehensive land-use plan to guide future development.

“He was integral in helping build what’s going to affect us far into the future,” said Wilhite, who passed the mayor’s gavel to Richard Munson Tuesday.

Flanigan “was passionate about politics,” said his sister Kelly Duncan, of Newman Lake.

But the single father had other interests, and one of them was spending more time with his sons, 15-year-old Zach and 14-year-old Ben. Duncan said he enjoyed the challenge of getting the new city government running, but he didn’t seek re-election after completing a two-year term that ran through 2004.

“He was just a great brother,” Duncan said. “He got me involved with the debate team and helped start the state team at Evergreen Junior High when I was in junior high.”

Although much of his career was in sales, Flanigan also managed several restaurants and “was a great chef,” Duncan said. She said his culinary roots are in the former Felts Field Cafe, now the Skyway Cafe, which their parents used to own and he managed in the early 1980s.

“I had to call him every Christmas to find out how to make my prime rib because I would always forget,” Duncan said.

Flanigan earned a bachelor’s degree in political science and economics from Eastern Washington University in 1982.

He worked in Cheney, Friday Harbor, Kent, Wash., and in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, before returning to Spokane Valley and going to work for the Greater Spokane Valley Chamber of Commerce in November 2000 in membership sales – a position he held until March 2003.

Chamber promotions director Vicki Johnson described Flanigan as “an awesome guy” and a “great networker” who was “just friendly to everybody.”

“Mike really believed in the new city and left his job at the chamber to devote full time to the beginning of the new city of Spokane Valley,” Johnson said.

Singleton used to be the chamber’s office manager, and it was she who hired Flanigan.

“He had a heart of gold,” she said. “Mike was one of those guys who was always ready to pitch in with whatever needed to be done.”

Although he went back to work in sales after leaving the council, he continued to volunteer for civic projects and was interested in serving on the board of the Spokane Valley Heritage Museum, which opened in August 2005, Singleton said. He helped with tours, setting up exhibits and even cleaning the museum, she said.

He started a new job Jan. 1 in media sales for ITT Technical Institute in Spokane.

In addition to his sons and Duncan, Flanigan is survived by his mother, Janice Flanigan of Spokane Valley, brother Rick Flanigan of Dallas, sister Tracy Duncan of Spokane Valley, and his ex-wife, Marleigh Flanigan of Spokane Valley.