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‘He was just a good, honest person’: Chuck Hafner, former Spokane Valley City Councilman, dies

Aug. 9, 2021 Updated Mon., Aug. 9, 2021 at 9:05 p.m.

Chuck Hafner, a former Spokane Valley city councilman who spent much of his career as a teacher, principal and administrator at local schools, died last month. He was 89.

“He worked tirelessly for the city and for the community,” former Spokane Valley Mayor Dean Grafos said. “He was just a good, honest person; hard working.”

Hafner began his education career as a fifth -grade teacher for a class with 55 students. He went on to earn a master’s degree in administrative and superintendent credentials from Eastern Washington University, which was then known as Eastern Washington State College.

Over the years Hafner worked at a handful of Spokane County schools. He served as an administrator at Otis Orchards Upper Elementary and Mead’s junior high and high school.

As a principal, Hafner led Central Valley High School and University High School. He finished his education career as assistant superintendent of Central Valley School District.

“When people remember Chuck they remember him as somebody who loved kids,” Central Valley School District Superintendent Ben Small said. “He had a huge impact on them as their principal.”

Small said that even after retiring, Hafner was always around at the school district. The former administrator always offered good advice, Small said.

“His impact will be felt throughout the Valley for many, many years,” Small said.

After retiring, Hafner fought for multiple bond issues – which are often difficult to pass – that provided millions for public schools.

Hafner and his friends dubbed the campaigns Kids First. In 1996, Hafner helped pass a $23 million bond issue that had failed a handful of times. In the mid-2000s he pushed for a $76 million construction bond.

In 1998, Hafner worked to help pass the district’s $78 million school bond, the largest in county history.

That bond paid for the new University and Central Valley high schools.

In 2011, Hafner was appointed to Spokane Valley City Council. He served until his resignation in 2016.

Hafner’s resignation came at a time of turmoil for then-Mayor Rod Higgins’ City Council.

Higgins, along with fellow councilmembers Arne Woodard, Ed Pace and Sam Wood, voted to fire City Manager Mike Jackson.

Grafos resigned in protest of Jackson’s firing, and Hafner followed him a few days later.

“My issue was the way they fired him,” Grafos said. “It was without cause.”

Grafos said Hafner’s decision to resign was a brave one.

“It meant that he was an honorable person and he was an honest man and he felt the good of the community was more important than anybody’s political ambitions on that council,” Grafos said.

Hafner was intensely critical of City Council’s direction under Higgins.

“We went from a nonpartisan council, which we are supposed to be, to a far-right, extremist, ultraconservative council,” Hafner told The Spokesman-Review in 2016 after his resignation.

When he wasn’t working with schools or on City Council, Hafner was an avid outdoorsman. He was a longtime member of the Spokane Yacht Club and enjoyed fishing and traveling in his RV.

The Greater Spokane Valley Chamber of Commerce gave Hafner the Harry E. Nelson Citizen of the Year award in 2016.

Hafner is survived by his wife of 68 years, Janet Hafner, daughters Suzanne and Julie, four grandkids and one great-grandchild.

A celebration of Hafner’s life will be held at CenterPlace Regional Event Center Aug. 22 from 1 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. The family asks that people send donations to Hospice of Spokane in lieu of flowers.

“He always put the citizens ahead of his own ambitions,” Grafos said. “He’ll be missed in the community.”

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