Best Elected Official, 2005 | JIM WEST

Blast from the Past

From public servant to pariah: Former Spokane Mayor Jim West.
  • From public servant to pariah: Former Spokane Mayor Jim West.

Back in 2005 — early 2005, to be clear — Spokane Mayor Jim West was boring. The good kind of boring. An Inlander Q&A with West in February that year talked about how the mayor, who had survived a bout with cancer, was "daring to be dull." He was willing to plunge into the muck of complicated policy issues, like the city's serious budget deficit and the tangle-turned-Gordian-knot of the city's involvement with the River Park Square parking garage.

So when Inlander readers picked West as 2005's Best Elected Official, the Boring But Diligent Public Servant was the archetype we chose to write about.

"He was willing to wade into the River Park Square quagmire, managing to emerge, if not unsullied, at least still intact," the paper wrote at the time. "And with Principles of Government, he has rejuvenated a process — determining budgetary allocations — that's usually, let's face it, soporific."

And besides, he was great with kids.

"Hizzoner pops up on local-access TV channels in an orange safety vest, helping little kids cross the street and explaining those mysterious parking kiosks," the Inlander wrote.

Just six weeks later, a blockbuster Spokesman-Review story gave that line a sickening irony: "West Tied to Sex Abuse in '70s, Using Office to Lure Young Men."

The Spokesman, with the help of a consultant they hired to flirt with the mayor on Gay.com, persuasively laid out evidence that West had dangled internships and appointments to young men he was interested in online. As if that wasn't scandal enough, the Spokesman alleged — but could never quite prove — that he might have molested young boys in the 1970s.

And with that, the 2005 Best Elected Official became a pariah. Before the first slew of 2006 Inlander Best Of ballots went out, the mayor was recalled in a landslide.

"For a man who's fighting off cancer, he's a regular Energizer Bunny of civic governance," the paper had written in 2005. But for West, it was like the scandal sapped him of all that energy. The cancer came back. He died in July of 2006 of complications after surgery.