Steve Salvatori’s son had a nickname for Spokane when he was touring the Lilac City with his father.
“He would call Spokane ‘Steve Town,’ ” Sam Salvatori, the former councilman’s wife of 20 years, said in a phone interview Tuesday. “We live in ‘Steve Town.’ Everyone would come up and say, ‘Hi, Steve.’ ”
Steve Salvatori, founder of a sales brokerage firm based in Texas that bears his name, a Spokane City Council member from 2011 to 2014 and a booster for entrepreneurial efforts in what became his adopted home town upon retirement, died Saturday after undergoing years of treatment for leukemia. He was 68.
The Salvatoris moved to Spokane in the summer of 2007, seeking a retirement destination after living together in Los Angeles. He started the Spokane Entrepreneurial Center, which included among its tenants future Mayor David Condon and Mike Allen, who became Salvatori’s closest ally on a City Council that leaned conservative at the time of his election in 2011.
“He helped bring people together from all different parties, to try to find a solution,” said Allen, who served on the council from 2007 to 2015.
Allen and Salvatori, both conservatives, pushed for a city charter amendment requiring independent oversight of the Spokane Police Department in the wake of the killing of Otto Zehm and the resulting federal civil rights lawsuit against Officer Karl Thompson. Salvatori also pushed against government regulation of business during his time on the council, and along with Allen took votes that attempted to outline what the proper role of city government should be when lawmakers pushed for resolutions addressing social issues.
“I guess the bottom line is that I sort of miss the discourse that we used to have, collectively, in America,” Salvatori said in an interview in February 2021. “I think it’s gotten a little scarcer. Hopefully, we’re moving back to that.”
His political positions occasionally caused him to butt heads with Ben Stuckart, the council’s president and chief cheerleader for many of those efforts to tackle social issues. Stuckart called Salvatori “a genuinely good guy.”
“We’d both come in a little angry with each other, and we had a ritual where we would talk it through,” Stuckart said. “We were never not fine with each other after we talked it through.”
Allen, Salvatori and Stuckart remained golfing buddies even after they were no longer on the council together.
Even as his body was weakened by cancer treatments, Sam Salvatori said her husband kept his promises and enthusiasm for being a dad and husband. When the lottery jackpot jumped to historic heights over the summer as the couple lived in Florida, Steve Salvatori asked his wife, whom he referred to as “Sami” in a way that invited others to adopt the nickname, what she’d do if she won the money.
“I said I’d want to move out to the West Coast, to be closer to our kids,” Sam Salvatori said. “He said, ‘We don’t have to win the lottery to move you back.’ ”
Within days, the home was on the market and the couple was making plans to relocate to California. It was one of three goals he had before dying, Sam Salvatori said, a list that also included visits to Park City, Utah, and Spokane.
“The word ‘procrastination’ did not exist in Steve’s world,” his wife said.
Allen and Stuckart were with Steve Salvatori when he visited the city last month, holding court at Brickwest downtown. Allen said his friend got to see so many of the things that he took part in, including a tour of the revamped Riverfront Park. Parts of the redevelopment occurred after Salvatori returned to Spokane and took a seat on the volunteer Park Board in 2017.
“Steve had a full dance card every night he was here,” Allen said.
Sam Salvatori said she saw peace in her husband when he returned from the trip, likely knowing it was going to be his last.
“He came back feeling so well-loved,” Sam Salvatori said. “I’m so glad he did it.”
Steve Salvatori is survived by his wife, and three children; Whitney Phillips, David Phillips and Hillary Maroney (Cullen); as well as two twin grandchildren, Sloane and Rourke Maroney, both 4. Sloane Maroney has the same twinkle in her smile as her grandpa, whom she called “Pop,” said Sam Salvatori. They know Sam Salvatori as “Lolly.”
Sam Salvatori is planning a celebration of life in Spokane next month. It will take place on a Friday afternoon over beers, a favorite pastime of her husband’s, she said.
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