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

Spokane Valley Councilman Schimmels leaving after 10 years

Spokane Valley City Councilman/Deputy Mayor Gary Schimmels is greeted by Latisha Hill, regional business manager for Avista, during a farewell gathering at Spokane Valley City Hall on Tuesday. (Kathy Plonka)

Spokane Valley Councilman Gary Schimmels is a man of few words.

Sometimes entire meetings go by with him doing little more than making motions in his role as deputy mayor. But if he gets going on a topic he’s passionate about, such as street preservation funding or maintaining the city’s reserves, it’s best to just sit back and absorb the flow of words.

His man-of-few-words style was mentioned by City Manager Mike Jackson during a brief farewell gathering for Schimmels and Mayor Tom Towey before their final council meeting Tuesday.

“Gary doesn’t say much, but he says a lot if you listen to him,” Jackson said.

Jackson also referred to Schimmels as “Mr. Spokane Valley,” alluding to his 10 years of service as a council member. The city incorporated in 2003, but Schimmels began his work with the city before that, serving on the transitional transportation committee.

His long tenure with the city might seem an odd path when you consider that Schimmels, now 75, was against incorporation. He still has anti-incorporation signs and T-shirts from the numerous failed ballot measures. But when incorporation finally passed, Schimmels figured he should get involved. “It’s the old deal,” he said. “If you can’t lick them, join them.”

The first election for City Council seats was packed – Schimmels was up against seven other candidates. He was the owner of a key and lock store with a background in construction, and managed to stand out in the crowd. He ran unopposed twice, in 2005 and 2009. And that may very well be why he lost his council seat to Ed Pace in November. “I became spoiled,” he said. Schimmels ran his usual low-key election campaign. He chose the mini-reporting option and pledged not to raise or spend more than $5,000. He found himself overwhelmed by an opponent who raised more than $15,000 and spent almost all of it on advertising. Schimmels said he saw an “uprising” going on, but didn’t realize how serious it was until it was too late.

Schimmels doesn’t talk much about his loss at the ballot box. He prefers to talk about his plans for the future, which include working in his garage restoring a 1926 Model T truck and a 1923 Model T roadster. “I’ve got probably enough parts to build two more,” he said.

When he’s not working in his garage he’s trolling swap meets for parts. “If I see something and it’s good and it’s rare and I need it, I buy it,” he said. “Or even if I think I might need it.”

Schimmels also plans to work with some local organizations like Meals on Wheels and Valleyfest, things he didn’t have time to do when he was serving on the council. “I’m not going to do nothing,” he said. “I’ll help out here in the community.”

He will miss talking with people and serving on the various boards and committees where he represented the city for years, most of them related to transportation. “A lot of people call me and talk to me and chew my fanny,” he said.

He’s proud of the stance he took four years ago against the Sprague/Appleway Revitalization Plan. Opposition to the plan led to the ouster of several council members in the 2009 election. “I just sensed we were going down the wrong road,” he said. “I just stood there and stood my ground.”

He’s hopeful for the future of the city that he helped create.

“I’ve never lost hope in anything we’ve done,” he said. “We’ve never had the headlines like other neighbors. We have had an excellent management group from day one. That’s why we have what we have today.”