October 5, 2013 in Washington Voices

Dan Mork will step down as Millwood mayor

Valerie Putnam vrputnam@yahoo.com
 
Jesse Tinsley photoBuy this photo

Dan Mork, shown in his office at city hall on Sept. 24, has served the town of Millwood for more than 30 years, including the last eight as mayor. He will step down Dec. 31 and take a break from public life. He works at HollisterStier.
(Full-size photo)

Background

 Mork’s family history in the Millwood area dates back to his great grandfather buying and farming property along the Spokane River.

 His grandfather, Ed, worked as an accountant for Inland Empire Paper Co. and also served one term on the Millwood City Council in the late 1950s. Mork’s father, Barry, worked as a millwright at the paper plant.

 Mork graduated from West Valley High School in 1977 where he met his wife, Kathryn. They were married just out of high school and have two children, Seth and Sara.

 He earned a bachelor’s degree in biology with a minor in business administration from Eastern Washington University. A full-time employee of HollisterStier, he worked his way up from mail room to his current position of pollen facility manager.

After serving Millwood for 32 years, Dan Mork says the time has come for him to leave political office.

“I’m leaving it enjoying what we’ve done,” Mork said. “It’s time for me to move on and do some other things.”

As mayor for eight years, Mork led the change from Millwood being designated as a small town into a city, and also oversaw resurfacing the Argonne corridor and improved communication between the city and its residents, businesses and educational institutions.

“Dan definitely takes a very active role,” City Councilman Kevin Freeman said. “If it’s something that not only benefits the city today but will benefit in the long run, he champions it.”

Longtime resident Jim Youngman said Mork’s sense of service was his inspiration for planting more than 1,900 pounds of potatoes for donation to the Second Harvest Food Bank.

“If anybody can go to a City Council meeting and watch how that man is dedicated to Millwood, it makes you embarrassed,” Youngman said of Mork’s contributions. “You see what he is doing and here you are just taking care of your space but you’re not doing anything. … It’s an inspiration for people to be involved in the community.”

In 1981 at age 23, Mork was the youngest council member ever elected to the Millwood City Council.

During his 24 years as a councilman, Millwood installed sewer for the entire city, dissolved its long-running volunteer fire department and saw the demolition of the old West Valley High school building.

Inspired by the service of former Mayor Bill Clearwater and former council members Clarence Pence and Harry Batson, Mork ran for mayor in 2005.

Mork’s campaign focused on how he wanted to serve the citizens of Millwood.

“Dan was in a mindset to move the city forward.

“Everything he has done has been for the preservation and enhancement of the city as a whole,” Freeman said.

Mork began his term by sending out a survey he developed to residents.

“I wanted to know what’s wrong,” Mork said about soliciting resident’s opinions. “It’s their city, it’s what they want, we have to listen to them.”

Mork used the survey results as his marching orders for his first term.

“Dan has a great vision for where Millwood should be going,” City Planner Tom Richardson said. “He is good at meeting problems head on and is very reasonable and willing to work things out for mutual benefit.”

Under Mork’s leadership, the Town of Millwood became a noncharter Code City in 2008. This designation gives Millwood more flexibility.

“I am glad Dan was there to steward that process,” Freeman said. “It didn’t change where we live, but it made us stronger.”

The $1.3 million Argonne Corridor project, completed in 2009, was the largest project Mork tackled as mayor. The project resurfaced and rehabilitated Argonne and replaced and built sidewalk along the roadway.

“We bent over backwards getting everyone involved,” Mork said about working with businesses and residents affected by the project. “We had weekly construction meetings. It really went well.”

Mork worked with city staff to develop a better accounting of the various city funds, such as water and sewer, a change mandated by state requirements for code cities.

“He had the courage to raise the water rates,” Freeman said. “Now we are going to be able to secure a low-interest loan and rehabilitate a long section of water main.”

Through Mork’s effort to build a greater sense of community, the annual Christmas tree lighting event was reestablished in 2007. The event had been abandoned for several years prior.

“I love the tree poems,” Freeman said of Mork’s tradition at the event. “I’ve gotten a kick over the years seeing what we’re going to get next year at the tree lighting.”

Mork also was instrumental in Millwood’s designation as a Tree City USA, renovating City Hall and mending key relationships between the city and West Valley High School, Inland Empire Paper Co. (which is owned by Cowles Co., which also owns The Spokesman-Review), and the Spokane Valley Fire District.

“I’m really sad that he’s not going to be the mayor anymore,” resident Youngman said. “I think Millwood has lost somebody that is quite significant.”


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