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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Civic Elder: David Rodgers reflects

Former Spokane  Mayor David Rodgers sits for a portrait  April 16. 
 (CHRISTOPHER ANDERSON / The Spokesman-Review)
The Spokesman-Review

David Rodgers, 84, served as Spokane’s mayor from 1967 to 1978. The nation was experiencing cataclysmic change, and Spokane was working on its renaissance, culminating in Expo ‘74 and the creation of Riverfront Park. Here are some of Rodgers’ reflections on his civic life, as told to editorial board member Rebecca Nappi.

“Luke Williams was a good friend of mine. He said, “Dave, I’m going to resign my council seat tomorrow. I want to put your name up.” I said, “Luke, I don’t want to have anything to do with tearing the trees out of people’s front yards.” He said, “You think about it.” My wife and I went home and thought: “Here’s somebody offering it on a silver platter.”

“The hippies used to show up. They were more of a nuisance than anything else.

“The 1968 bus strike went on and on. The bus drivers were probably getting a $1.40 an hour. And the private bus company was hemorrhaging money. One day City Manager Sylvin Fulwiler and I met with the CEO of National City Lines. He said they were going to use substitute drivers. I said, “There’ll be fistfights and rock throwing.” I told him we’d propose that the city take over the system. The CEO looked relieved.

“Could an Expo happen today? It would be pretty tough. That was back in the days when U.S. Sen. Warren G. Magnuson, “Maggie,” knew his way around federal government. He had an entrée to the White House. Nixon was president. We didn’t have the open meeting law. If a bunch of councilmen wanted to have lunch together, they could. You developed an understanding of where we were going. It was better the old way – as long as you were dealing with honorable people.

“On balancing six children, a wife, a full-time insurance industry job and mayoral duties: The city manager was the day-to-day officer. The mayor was really the chairman of the board of the directors. We made the rules. He carried them out. That works. I think it’s sad we lost that system.

“Memories of contentious City Council meetings: Old Jack Winston was a sidekick of Margaret Leonard. He and Margaret would raise a rumpus and one time I lost it, the only time I lost it. They were advocating a pay raise for the policemen. We said OK, we’ll give them a pay raise, but we have to raise this particular tax. Then Margaret and Jack voted against it. The naysayers make you articulate the reasons for doing what you’re doing.

“I’ve been graced with a healthy life. I play tennis a couple of times a week. We don’t run around like college boys, but we work up a sweat.

“Advice to civic leaders: Don’t take yourself too seriously, because the wisdom of the world doesn’t reside in just one individual.