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Former legislator, Spokane Board of Realtors director Dick Barrett dies at 91

UPDATED: Wed., April 14, 2021

Former Rep. Dick Barrett, shown here in 1981, has died at age 91.  (Cowles Publishing)
Former Rep. Dick Barrett, shown here in 1981, has died at age 91. (Cowles Publishing)

As a legislator, Dick Barrett had a reputation of being able to get along with everyone.

“He just didn’t acquire enemies,” former House Speaker Bill Polk said Wednesday of Barrett, who died Monday at 91. “He was willing to laugh and talk with people and discuss their problems with them.”

He won a state House of Representatives seat in northwest Spokane’s old 5th District in 1980, part of the Republican tide that rode Ronald Reagan’s presidential election and gave the GOP control of the Legislature.

Spokane Valley Sen. Mike Padden, who was elected to the House that same year, said Barrett quickly became a floor leader, helping shepherd legislation through the chamber.

“He had the look and was very articulate. He was a good guy,” Padden said. “He had an infectious personality.”

Born in 1930 in Spokane, Barrett was interested in writing and journalism, graduated from the old Lincoln High School and earned a degree in Journalism and Economics from the University of Washington. He worked for newspapers and radio stations around the Northwest before returning to Spokane in 1955 to be news director at KREM-TV and radio. During his 14 years there, he served as director, newscaster and producer of news, sports and children’s shows before quitting to manage a local advertising agency.

In 1970, he became the executive director of the Spokane Board of Realtors, a post he held for 13 years, while also serving on the Spokane Plan Commission, the District 81 school siting committee and the Aquifer Committee.

Rob Higgins, the current executive director of the Spokane Association of Realtors, as it is now called, said he met Barrett when starting out in real estate. After Higgins was elected to the Spokane City Council in 1981, he met with Barrett regularly on trips to Olympia for city issues.

“He was a very special guy,” Higgins said. “Everybody liked him. He always had a smile on his face.”

Barrett also had a reputation as a bit of a prankster, and when Higgins later took his place, the change was noticeable because “I was kind of a stick in the mud, comparatively speaking,” he said.

Barrett announced plans to run for the Legislature in 1979, Padden recalled, and quickly had an impressive campaign war chest from support in the real estate community. He won a seat previously held by a Democrat and was easily re-elected twice. In 1986, he decided it was someone else’s turn to represent the district, his obituary said. The district was moved to suburban King County in the 1991 redistricting.

Barrett joined his wife, Pam Barrett, as a lobbyist with their own firm in Olympia. He worked with Eastern Washington University, the Seattle Police Officers Association and the Washington Hotel Association.

They retired in 1994, and took a part-time job managing a small private condominium in Hawaii. They eventually returned to Spokane, where he became active with St. Francis Xavier parish, the Knights of Columbus and the St. Vincent DePaul Society.

He is survived by his wife, Pamela Plese Barrett, son, Ken Barrett, and daughter, Janet Chavez; his wife’s children, Bill Robinson and Annamarie Rose; four grandchildren and six great grandchildren

A funeral mass at St. Francis Xavier, 545 E. Providence Ave., is set for 10 a.m. Thursday, with face masks required.

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