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Mayors’ stories: Mary Verner, Spokane

Spokane Mayor Mary Verner (Dan Pelle / The Spokesman-Review)
Spokane Mayor Mary Verner (Dan Pelle / The Spokesman-Review)

Mary Verner, 52, is mayor of Spokane.

Her mentor: Chiqui Morciglio was involved in the Virgin Islands Emergency Management Agency. I was 17 and living there and looking for adventure. One day, there was a tank diver in a diving suit, and Chiqui was there, and he asked me if I’d like to do that, go scuba diving and rock climbing, too. “The rescue squad does all of that,” he said. He recruited me to be a volunteer by appealing to my sense of adventure.

What she still uses: His message was this adventure doesn’t happen easily. You have to train for it, be committed to it and as fun as it is, you have to be willing to accept the danger, too. We all had the fun training, but we had to deal with some difficult realities. We came upon serious injury and death. I observed an autopsy once. Chiqui said, “You have to take the hard with the easy.” He taught me that you can have fun and use it for a public purpose at the same time.

How she passes it on: With my children and grandchildren, and with the young people I encounter in Spokane, I try to take Chiqui’s lesson that you appeal to what the person enjoys. You can use what you enjoy in a way that gives back to the community. Community service doesn’t have to be a burden.

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