Harriett Spanel died yesterday. She was only 77 but had been dealing with some health issues the past few years. She still had the energy and desire for politics.
The Bellingham Herald's Dean Kahn is on the story and will not doubt expand what is so far posted. Dean knew her and that is when he does best.
I worked with her in the early 1990s when she pushed through legislation to reform Ports in Washington State. She is responsible for our now electing commissioners to four year terms - while before it was six years. They are now more accountable to the citizens. She also got the option to go for five commissioners passed. She was very concerned with local port issues. She was one of those who publically chastized the port commissioners when they fired executive director Charlie Sheldon a few years ago.
Many of us local actists and civic minded persons have worked with her. She was what a politician should be - one who enjoyed working with people, listening and learning and then being fearless in pushing for practical change. And she had integrity with even those across the aisle willing to work with her on bills. One of her mentors was Barney Goltz who was a master legislator and respected politician in the 1970s and 1980s before Harriet.
Briefly, she was raised in Iowa, came to Bellingham in the 1960s, got involved in local and neighborhood issues, and then ran for election to the state legislature in 1986. She won and served first as a representative and later a senator until she retired in at the end of 2008. She very well served all the citizens of Whatcom and Skagit counties. We will miss her.