After nearly two decades serving the city of Spokane – and 40 years attending City Council meetings – Candace Mumm is ready for a break.
It’s a respite her colleagues on the City Council say is well-earned.
Mumm is leaving the City Council after two full terms representing District 3, which encompassed northwest Spokane.
During her tenure, Mumm earned a reputation for having an acute understanding of city finances and a penchant for aiming to build policies with a long-lasting impact.
“Candace is a genius when it comes to budgets and numbers, and Candace is driven to a point where she doesn’t give up,” said fellow council member and District 3 seatmate Karen Stratton.
Mumm’s been engaged in local government since she was a 19-year-old news intern for KJRB radio, covering City Council meetings at the old City Hall building downtown.
“I can still remember how long, hot and boring those meetings were. I would have to drive several miles back up to the South Hill recording studio to cut stories for the morning show,” Mumm said.
Mumm entered politics in 2013 after a decade as a volunteer on the city’s Plan Commission, including two stints as its president. She played a key role in developing the first-ever comprehensive plan adopted by the city, charting the path for the city’s development and growth for decades to come.
She had been asked to run for City Council several times before, but Mumm always turned down the offer. As a former radio and television news journalist, she had covered elections across three states and never had much interest in participating in one as a candidate. Plus, between work and family, she simply didn’t have the time.
But eventually she took the plunge.
“When my children were grown and we were able to get other people to run the business, I was able to step in for that full commitment,” Mumm told The Spokesman-Review in a recent interview.
Mumm describes herself as a political moderate, but as a City Council candidate she promised to bring a check and balance to the mayor’s office.
“I stepped into the ring realizing that I was a moderate and I could potentially work with a rainbow of political styles just to get things done,” Mumm said.
She ultimately won in what was, for the standards of the day, an extremely expensive City Council race.
Though new to City Council, Mumm entered office with a solid understanding of how city government worked, thanks in large part to her time on the Plan Commission and years of advocacy and work in her neighborhood.
Looking back eight years later, the city has invested heavily in its streets, schools, and parks, Mumm said, with an eye toward the distant future.
“Spokane I think has emerged as being a really attractive place to live because we’ve made those kinds of decisions,” Mumm said.
Money, money, money
Colleagues respect Mumm’s encyclopedic knowledge of the city budget and finances. Mumm, who has a master of business administration degree and co-owns a real estate business with her husband, served as chair of the council Finance and Administration Committee for several years.
She was instrumental in establishing new city reserves and setting parameters for their use, ensuring that they are drawn down only when absolutely necessary. Carefully and intentionally building up reserves over recent years allowed the city to remain relatively confident entering the COVID-19 pandemic.
At the tail end of her final year in office, Mumm served on the council’s three-member work group that helped prioritize potential projects to fund with the city’s $81 million portion of the American Rescue Plan.
Mumm has long been a vocal critic of the city’s spending on police and fire department overtime pay, which routinely soars past the budgeted amount. She was pivotal in pushing for a study of overtime pay that the city expects to complete in 2022.
Ultimately, the city’s money is the taxpayers’ money, Mumm said.
“I always respected that and really took great care where I could help the city save money,” Mumm said.
Land use, public infrastructure
Having played such a direct role in drafting the city’s comprehensive plan, Mumm points to it often – particularly when she feels the city isn’t following its template.
She’s warned of the consequences of haphazard development and preferred restraint, even when pushed to approve new housing proposals and zoning changes in order to alleviate the city’s housing shortage.
Councilwoman Lori Kinnear was among those who had pushed Mumm to run, and “I didn’t let it go,” she said. If it were up to Kinnear, term limits wouldn’t apply to Mumm, who she described as “very methodical” and “very smart.”
When Mumm thinks through a request to change the zoning of a parcel, or to allow access to the city’s water delivery system, she’s considering the precedent it sets and the impact on the city’s future, according to Kinnear. And when she makes a decision, she explains the reasoning.
“It’s one thing to say ‘just trust me,’ but it’s another thing to say here’s why this is going to work,” Kinnear said.
Among Mumm’s central concerns was to ensure that children had safe routes to walk to school.
“What I learned was that kids who walked to school learned better,” Mumm said. “One of the best things you can do is make it easy for kids to get to school.”
One school in Five Mile was warning parents that it was unsafe to have kids walk to school, so Mumm worked with neighbors to help secure a $400,000 Safe Routes to Schools Grant to build new sidewalks and bike lanes in Five Mile Prairie.
Mumm’s first major piece of legislation in 2014 was a law that pushed the city to install more crosswalks near schools, parks and other heavily trafficked areas.
Mumm also played a key role in shaping the regional transit system, serving on the board of the Spokane Transit Authority while a member of the City Council.
As she leaves office, Mumm said STA’s finances are stronger than they’ve ever been.
She’s fought to make bus rides free for people under 18, which she argued can help a young person find a job outside their immediate neighborhood.
The intersection between planning and transit was important to Mumm, who supported providing incentives to encourage development around public transit stops.
“We really look at connecting people with the important places they need to go – hospitals, schools, higher education and yes, downtown and shopping,” Mumm said. “Being able to use transit is such a game changer for people’s personal finances. It saves them so much money.”
Mumm led the city’s Gender and Race Pay Equity Task Force, which released a set of recommendations in a 2016 report.
And it’s in large part due to Mumm’s work that City Hall has baby changing stations in public restrooms.
Mumm worked to ensure the name of the renovated plaza outside City Hall as the “Gathering Place” in honor of the Native American tribes that historically gathered nearby.
Stratton and Mumm didn’t always take the same approach to governing, but both cared deeply about the district, Stratton said.
“I learned so much from her,
With Mumm on the way out, Kinnear said the City Council is losing a tremendous amount of institutional knowledge.
“That is difficult to get back, it’s difficult to replace,” Kinnear said.