After a 14-year stint on the city’s Plan Commission, longtime Hillyard resident Mike Brewer wasn’t ready to walk away from public service in the late 1980s.
“He made this statement to a fella at church, ‘For two cents I’ll run for City Council,’ ” remembered Brewer’s wife, Marjorie.
The fellow parishioner pulled out a pair of pennies, and in November 1989 Brewer was elected to the Spokane City Council for the first of two terms.
Brewer, a veteran of the U.S. Coast Guard during World War II, booster of the Hillyard neighborhood and Spokane transportation advocate, died May 20. He was 93.
A lifelong Spokane resident, Brewer graduated from North Central High School a few months before his 18th birthday and asked his parents to sign enlistment papers. He served as a radioman based in Astoria, Oregon, during the war as part of a mine patrol unit, Marjorie Brewer said.
After the war, Mike Brewer enrolled at Gonzaga University. In the midst of his studies, Mike and Marjorie began exchanging letters and riding trains to see each other. They met through a family for whom Marjorie babysat in Post Falls, with the mother suggesting Brewer.
“I said, ‘Someday I want to marry an Irishman,’” Marjorie Brewer said. “And she said, ‘I know just the Irishman for you – Mickey Brewer.’ ”
The couple wed in August 1951 and moved into a house off Stone Street they shared for nearly 70 years.
Mike Brewer worked in finance, helping start with Marjorie the Spokane Catholic Credit Union in 1964. He was also manager of the Kaiser Mead Credit Union and the Inland Power and Light Credit Union in the 1960s and ’70s. The couple raised six children, all of them Gonzaga graduates.
His foray into politics began with a failed run for the Spokane School Board in 1967 for a seat that was being vacated by the father of future U.S. Rep. George Nethercutt. He was appointed to the city’s Plan Commission in 1974 by Mayor David H. Rodgers.
Paul Hamilton, now the family’s State Farm insurance agent and also a Hillyard booster, met Brewer through Brewer’s sons, who attended Rogers High School at the same time he did.
“He had a way, if he liked you, he would give you advice,” Hamilton said. “He didn’t really have a cross thing to say about anybody.”
The main issue in the 1989 City Council elections was the building of the Waste-to-Energy Plant on the West Plains, a project Brewer supported, though he was concerned about its location near the airport. Tucked into stories about his campaign was his support for a north-south highway running along Havana Street and the old railroad right of way.
Marjorie Brewer remembered her husband and sons discussing the location of the road over the breakfast table.
“They first were discussing why Hamilton Street was such a stupid choice for the freeway,” Marjorie Brewer said, referencing early plans for the North Spokane Corridor that listed the arterial as the site for the highway. “They ought to put it over by the railroad, and so it went.
“So finally I said, ‘Why don’t you guys tell that to somebody that can do something?’ ”
Mike Brewer pushed for the road alignment in order to get semitrucks off the roads in Hillyard, a dream that may soon be realized with completion of the corridor planned for 2029.
Brewer and then-Mayor Shari Barnard faced pushback from the neighborhood over the plan, which would require the removal of between 500 and 600 homes to support the highway alignment.
“No matter where we put it, it’s going to impact somebody,” Brewer told the newspaper in October 1993, as he was running for a second term. “It’s going to work. The single biggest problem is the unknown.”
Brewer also pushed for more public transit, supporting a downtown bus depot in a dispute with Barnard that threatened his removal from the Spokane Transit Authority board. He also pressed for additional low-income housing options in more areas of the city, backing a proposal to increase areas where manufactured homes could be built but submitting those homes to stricter building standards.
“We need to be making affordable homes for young people getting started,” he said in 1994.
Brewer declined to run for re-election in 1997, and later years of his life were devoted to community service and Hillyard preservation. He served as president of the Hillyard Lions Club and helped found the Hillyard Heritage Museum Society in 2004, acquiring the deed to the property at Queen and Market streets where the museum is located.
“Mike Brewer represents an age group that believed in the humble civic servant, not looking for the plaque, or the accolades,” Hamilton said.
Brewer will be interred at Holy Cross Cemetery in a private ceremony, according to the family. Remembrances may be left at the Holy Cross website.
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