Outgoing Spokane Valley Mayor Rich Munson banged his gavel Tuesday to officially begin his final council meeting. “Welcome to the end of an era,” he said.
Munson, Diana Wilhite and Dick Denenny attended their last meeting before new council members take office on Jan. 1. All three have been members of the council since the city was formed in 2003. Much of the meeting was spent in speeches as city staffers, former council members and citizens bade them farewell.
There were a lot of laughs to be found in an emotional evening. Munson became choked with emotion several times, particularly when thanking his wife for her support.
Former Councilman Steve Taylor made the drive from Connell, Wash., where he is city manager, to speak before the council. He said the outgoing council members were dedicated and had done the city a great service. “It is greatly appreciated and your leadership will be sorely missed,” he said.
Councilman Bill Gothmann presented plaques to each of the outgoing council members. He said Denenny is a person he always listened to. “I think he’s one of the wisest men I’ve ever run into,” he said.
Gothmann also praised Munson’s work ethic. “He has spent many, many hours during the week working as mayor,” he said. “I admire him so much for his dedication to the city.”
He also presented a plaque to Ian Robertson, a longtime planning commission member who was appointed to a vacant City Council seat this summer before losing the election to Dean Grafos. “He and I preceded the city,” Gothmann said. “We have worked together as a team.”
Wilhite said it had been a privilege and an honor to serve on the council. “It’s been a great ride,” she said. She also had nothing but praise for the city staffers she has worked with along the way. “They never ran and hid when they saw me coming.”
Denenny talked about the council’s early days meeting at Trent Elementary and meeting twice a week to pass the laws and regulations of the new city. “In certain ways it felt like being a Boy Scout and starting a project,” he said.
He read briefly from a thank you note from his daughter that mentioned the city parks in particular. “That’s why we did it, for our children and grandchildren,” he said.
Munson said it will be difficult to leave and he still felt excited about getting up and coming to work every day. “It was worth every single second,” he said.
What went largely unsaid during the night was anything about the new council members, some of whom were in attendance. Grafos, planning commissioner Tom Towey, State Sen. Bob McCaslin and businesswoman Brenda Grassel ran as part of the “positive change” slate along with current council member Gary Schimmels. Emotions ran high during the election season and some of that lingers.
The new council members who will take office on Jan. 1 asked for a separate special meeting to be sworn in rather than do it during the regular council meeting on Tuesday.
Some references were made during the night about what the outgoing council members hope the new council will pay attention to, but Munson was the only one to speak specifically to the new council.
“You’ve got a great staff,” he said. “You’re going to make mistakes and you’re going to have successes. You will have our support, believe me, in your efforts to make Spokane Valley a great place to live.”