H. A. “Barney” Goltz

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Editor note. Barney died Thursday, Dec 25. He strongly deserves tribute for his public service. Bob Aegerter provides a brief look at his life. Bob was the architect for WWU and worked with Barney for many years. I am very open to posting from those Bob mentions and also others. - John Servais

from Bob Aegerter

Harold A. “Barney” Goltz was born on a farm in western Minnesota in 1924.  Soon after the drought beginning in 1934 that we remember as “the dust bowl” his father passed away.  Young Harold helped his mother hold the family and farm together through hard times while achieving an outstanding academic record.  It was not easy.  With aid from a scholarship, he attended McCallister College in Saint Paul.  The first night in the dorm his fellow students named him Barney after Barney Barnsmell, a local cartoon character and the nickname endured.  Barney always had a gentle smile when telling this, and other jokes on himself. 

Barney went on to the University of Minnesota for an advanced degree in Student Affairs.  There he took a course from Hubert Humphrey.  He recalled attending class at 10 AM, then hurrying off to the Student Union to work.  He would sneak away from his post to a Union room where Hubert Humphrey and students would continue to talk politics into the afternoon.  Humphrey went on to become Mayor of Minneapolis and lead the Minnesota wing of the Democratic Farmer-Labor Party – The DFL, also strong in Northwest Washington.  Barney came west to the Western Washington College of Education in 1957.

When he arrived, he was told of a new Student Union being designed.  Looking over the preliminary plans he knew it was a mistake and informed the President of his belief.  After a confrontation between the Architect and Board of Trustees a new Architect was selected and Barney skillfully led a large committee participation in the design effort.  Unknown to him at the time, Barney had started on a new career. 

Asked to lead the committee for the Ridgeway Dormitories (for which Humphrey would later come to Bellingham to present a national design award), Barney soon became too deeply engaged in campus planning to continue to manage the Student Union.  He become Assistant to the President and managed student orientation, graduation, State Legislative lobbying, Capital Budget preparation and many other tasks in addition to facilities development.

In the 1970’s he successfully ran for the Washington State House and then the Senate.  In the Senate he served as Chair of the Ethics Committee at a time when several delicate issues demanded attention.  He once again won the respect and friendship of those he worked with.  Inspired by the experience of Harriet Spanel’s son Phil, my son William served as a Page during Barney’s term in the house.   Senator Harriet Spanel, Judge Mary Kay Becker, Washington DSHS head Dennis Braddock, Craig Cole, Bellingham Mayor Tim Douglas, and many, many more all have wonderful stories about Barney.  I hope they will share them with us. Upon retirement from Western Washington University and the Senate, Barney continued to serve on committees and Commissions for many years.

No tribute to Barney would be complete without mention of Marguerite.  She was his inspiration and most skillful adviser.  We are all better for having known them and worked with them.  We all miss them both.

From a past legislative representative

Barney was, I believe, the first Democrat in Whatcom County politics for quite a while. When he was elected to the House in 1972, Republican Frank Atwood was the Senator. All three county commissioners were Republicans. Barney defeated incumbent Republican Caswell Farr. Barney had an unusually sophisticated and modern campaign (terrific logo!). His election started a political trend meaning that Whatcom County has had a progressive voice in State politics up to the present day. About 1975, he introduced a bill to legalize marijuna. It didn’t go anywhere but it took courage on his part and he was steadfast in defending it.

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Comments by Readers

John Servais

Dec 29, 2008

Barney was, to my surprise, always supportive of my edgy political commentary and activities.  On a number of occasions he went out of his way to tell me to keep up the noise and continue to criticize government agencies.  He strongly supported a couple of my issues but declined to go public.  I checked with him - as I do others I respect - occasionally to get an honest and knowledgeable opinion.  Barney was a touchstone for me. 

I first watched him in action in the late 1960s when he was putting his master plan for WWU into play.  He developed what is a beautiful plan for Western - one that Karen Morse tried messing up for 15 years.  His plan may be saved by the new president Bruce Shepard.  Let us hope.

Reading the Herald article the other day, one could get the idea that Barney was just a smiling easy going glad hander who everyone liked.  However, he had strong opinions and the courage to push for improvements.  His stand on marijuana was not popular and took courage.  He wasn’t worried about how they might label him.  Lately, he gave us his support for branch libraries and showed up for our Fairhaven Library party every December - until this year.  As many of us know, he was a strong voice for protecting the Cornwall Neighborhood where he lived.  He was a true leader of our community through public stands on important issues and private advice to any who sought it.

And, finally, he had real integrity.  He did not seek political favors and he did not give political favors.  He did not expect special treatment from government officials simply because of who he was.  He did not tailor legislation to benefit friends. He worked for the benefit of our community.  Great guy.  Great life.  He left us much.