There are a few things that Chuck Hafner would like to get straight.
First, he was never a finalist for the city manager job in Spokane Valley nor did he support the movement for disincorporation. While he did chair the Positive Change group that swept the election for City Council last fall, placing four candidates on Spokane Valley’s governing board, he harbors no ill feelings toward those who led the city in the years between incorporation in 2003 and the tumultuous ballot last November.
“I believe they cared, they had vision; but I did not agree with the way they went about things,” Hafner said.
|Longtime Spokane Valley resident Chuck Hafner served as chairman of the Positive Change movement that saw four candidates elected to the Spokane Valley City Council last November. Since retiring from the Central Valley School District in 1990, Hafner has remained active in a number of civic causes, including a successful campaign to restore Crime Check and as a board member for the Sheriff’s Community Oriented Policing Effort.
Photo by: Craig Howard
A former principal at Central Valley and University high schools, Hafner has been involved in municipal politics as a resident of the Ponderosa area – helping to return residential zoning to one home per acre – and as a critic of longtime City Manager Dave Mercier, a “decent enough fellow” in Hafner’s words, but someone who he felt was detached from day-to-day life in the city he oversaw.
“He didn’t live here, he wouldn’t join any civic groups,” Hafner said. “I don’t think he ever integrated into the community.”
Although not a fan of Mercier, Hafner said he did not lead the charge to remove him from office, a decision that was made unceremoniously in early January, shortly after the new council gathered at City Hall.
“That was up to the council,” Hafner said.
Hafner voted against Valley incorporation in May 2002 on the grounds that he was “against another layer of government.” When the vote narrowly passed, he chose not to abandon the new city.
“I voted no, but said I would support the council and this city until I find they’re not taking into account what’s important to this community,” he said.
Apparently, that scenario materialized to such an extent that Hafner stepped up to lead the Positive Change group – a quintet of candidates that included veteran Council Member Gary Schimmels and challengers Tom Towey, Dean Grafos and Brenda Grassel. Longtime state Sen. Bob McCaslin was also brought into the mix after no one else volunteered to run against then Mayor Rich Munson.
While Hafner spearheaded the revolt against the standing council, he took exception to those who felt he was part of Sally Jackson’s efforts to disincorporate the city. Adding to the confusion, a meeting of the anti-city band at the Spokane Valley Library last summer – at which Jackson announced the reluctant end to yet another disincorporation attempt – served as the launching pad for the Positive Change campaign with Hafner and each of the five candidates in attendance.
“I was not for disincorporation,” Hafner maintains.
There were other misperceptions about the group, Hafner emphasized, including an opinion that the group wanted to scrap every aspect of the Sprague/Appleway Revitalization Plan. The goal, he said, was to create a thriving business environment that allowed for more signage while allowing for zoning that would benefit retailers.
“I think it’s important to do everything we can to help local business generate revenue,” Hafner said.
Many of the ideas in the SARP proposed by Bay Area consultant Michael Freedman simply didn’t apply to Spokane Valley, Hafner added.
“We’re not a Palm Springs community,” he said.
Grafos, who defeated Ian Robertson to win a council seat last November, called Hafner “a man of integrity and character.”
“He has well-served this community over a lifetime, and we are fortunate to have had his leadership here in the Valley,” Grafos said. “He has exceptional administrative and business experience and continues on as an effective civic activist for the well-being of our community.”
While the rumblings about Hafner as the next city manager proved to be mere speculation, the Air Force veteran did say he is still considering running for City Council next year. Hafner said he is not enthused with the current voting trend of the council, which he described as “two-two-three,” with pockets consisting of Grassel and McCaslin often opposed by Rose
Dempsey and Bill Gothmann with Schimmels, Towey and Grafos forming another faction.
“If the council is not representing this community, I’ll be the first one to tell them about it,” Hafner said. “Right now I think people see the negativity and contention. We don’t need to put up with that.”
In addition to his involvement as a Spokane Valley citizen, Hafner continues to support a variety of local causes, including the Sheriff’s Community Oriented Policing Effort, where he serves as a board member. He has contributed to an array of community groups throughout the years including Kiwanis, the Greater Spokane Valley Chamber of Commerce, Central Valley School board and more.
“Chuck is a great leader,” said Marilyn Cline, a member of the Central Valley SCOPE board. “He is a communicator who listens to people. He’s a great asset to this community.”
Two years ago, Hafner played an integral part in an informational campaign to restore Crime Check, the nonemergency reporting number utilized by local residents. Hafner appeared with local law-enforcement representatives at City Council meetings and other gatherings prior to the May 2008 vote.
Spokane County Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich said Hafner was critical in the drive that produced a winning margin.
“I don’t think we could have done it without him,” he said. “Chuck helped us raise awareness as a citizen. It goes back to summing up Chuck in a few words – he’s always been dedicated to improving his community.”