As an insurance and benefits broker, Dick Denenny understands the importance of a good policy.
As one of the inaugural representatives of the Spokane Valley City Council, Denenny was known for mapping out policies that helped build the newly incorporated jurisdiction from the ground up.
|Dick Denenny, one of the original representatives of the Spokane Valley City Council, was named 2010 Citizen of the Year by the Greater Spokane Valley Chamber of Commerce this month. Denenny will receive his award at the Gem of the Valley Gala on Jan. 22. Photo by: Craig Howard
“He was someone who did his homework,” said Mike DeVleming, Spokane Valley’s first mayor who served on the City Council with Denenny. “He was always prepared and very generous with his time.”
Denenny will need to clear out his active schedule on the evening of Jan. 22 – a night when the Greater Spokane Valley Chamber of Commerce will honor the Spokane native with the 2010 Harry E. Nelson Citizen of the Year Award at its annual banquet, now known as the “Gem of the Valley Gala.”
Denenny is the eighth honoree by the chamber going back to 2003. The roll call of previous winners includes names like DeVleming, Valleyfest organizer Peggy Doering and Ian Robertson of the faith community.
“I’ve known people who’ve received it in the past,” Denenny said. “But I didn’t have a clue that I’d be the latest.”
Prior to earning a place on the original City Council, Denenny had been involved in a number of civic efforts, including membership on the board of the Northeast Community Center, Valley Chamber and the local chapter of the Better Business Bureau.
After incorporation passed in May 2002, Denenny was not considering a run at the city’s first governing board – that is, until Richard Munson – later to become the third mayor of Spokane Valley – talked to him about campaigning.
“I’d never really been involved in politics, but I knew how to talk to people,” Denenny said. “The thing I remember about that first council is we were friends. When we started out, we were willing to admit we didn’t know anything – but we were ready to learn.”
Denenny emerged as a steady leader, working with Munson on the Spokane Transit Authority board to vastly increase bus routes in the Spokane Valley. He provided cohesion on the board of the Spokane Regional Health District during times that involved uncertainty with personnel. In issues dealing with water quality and sewer treatment, Denenny would, in DeVleming’s words, “go to every meeting and help guide the rest of the council through the issues.” He also was an important voice in the quest to finish construction of CenterPlace at Mirabeau Point, now the CenterPlace Regional Events Center.
Bill Gothman, who has served on the Spokane Valley City Council since 2006, said Denenny “was encyclopedic in his knowledge” regarding topics that pertained to the city.
“He was very good at thinking through a problem and clearly defining issues to the council,” Gothmann said. “Every time I went to a council meeting, I listened very carefully to what he was saying.”
After deciding not to run for re-election, Denenny stepped down from his council seat in December 2009. He has remained involved in civic life, continuing a long affiliation with Rotary and serving on the board of the Spokane Valley Arts Council, the regional Red Cross and Spokane Valley Partners.
Denenny graduated from Gonzaga Prep High School before attending the University of San Francisco and the University of California at Berkeley. He transitioned into the family boat business after college, eventually owning and managing Denenny’s Marina from 1970 to 1981.
An avid outdoorsman, Denenny enjoys snow skiing, water skiing and soccer. His latest recreational hobby involves cycling. He has volunteered with the Ski Patrol at Mt. Spokane since 1977, serving as the first responder to incidents on the slopes.
“It was my first experience of participating in something that gives back to the community,” Denenny said of the Ski Patrol.
Denenny and his wife, Kathy, celebrated their 40th wedding anniversary in October. They have three children and four grandchildren.
“I feel very blessed with my family,” Denenny said. “It’s absolutely the most important thing to me.”