Larry Killstrom, who for 16 years headed Spokane’s downtown Security Ambassadors program, died this week after being diagnosed with cancer. He was 64.
Friends and associates considered Killstrom the chief reason that the security patrol, managed by Downtown Spokane Partnership, has been an effective way to maintain the vitality of the downtown core.
The ambassadors walk the downtown area meeting with visitors, business owners and often interacting with teens and others who congregate downtown.
Mike Edwards, who headed the Downtown Spokane Partnership from 1998 to 2005, said Killstrom was an ideal manager for working with both the businesses and the young people.
Killstrom told him the best way to work with the younger crowd was to learn about them, said Edwards, who is now executive director of the Chicago Loop Alliance, a downtown business association.
“Larry suggested the DSP create an experience so that the ambassadors and the kids understood each other better. So one year we ended up taking 15 to 20 kids on river raft trips on the Spokane River,” Edwards said.
That experience helped both sides know each other better, Edwards said, adding, “Larry was a great guy. He understood people.”
Before joining the ambassadors program, Killstrom worked as a security guard with Spokane’s Western Security. In 1998 he joined the DSP and soon took charge of the downtown Security Ambassadors program.
Edwards said that Killstrom was not an office manager but “a player coach who believed in being on the street every day and working with his team,” Edwards said.
In recent years Killstrom was also put in charge of the DSP Clean Team, a crew of workers focused on sweeping sidewalks, emptying trash, removing graffiti and maintaining flower pots downtown.
In 2012 Killstrom was named the national Certified Tourism Ambassador of the Year, a designation from a national tourism organization.
After winning the award, Killstrom summarized his job to The Spokesman-Review: “Our job is to enhance a person’s experience downtown,” he said. “If that means jump-starting a car or shoveling snow, we do it.”