Cheney Free Press -

By JOHN McCALLUM
Editor 

The abbreviated Tom Trulove

Retired long-time local and state public servant gave Cheney a strong mayor without the strong mayor price tag

 

January 25, 2018

Jill Weiszmann

Tom Trulove and City Administrator Mark Schuller (left) share a laugh during a Dec. 29, 2017 reception honoring the former Cheney mayor's retirement.

Even Tom Trulove's short resume is long, although in Pullman mayor and fellow academician Glenn Johnson's view, that's pretty good.

"I sometimes read (resumes from professors) 14-18 pages long," Johnson said. "If he can get it down to three pages, that's short for an academic."

For the former Cheney mayor who retired at the end of 2017, Trulove's resume is the brief summation of a long and distinguished career of service. It's a career that has taken him from university halls to City Hall and the legislative halls of Olympia and beyond.

The university halls begin at the University of Oregon with bachelor, masters and doctorate degrees in economics. They continued in Cheney where Trulove served as economics professor from 1969-2013, chair of the economics department from 1996-2013 and professor emeritus soon after that retirement.

City Hall starts with Trulove's first run as mayor from 1978-1986. It was followed by time on the Planning Commission from 1995-2005, and then another stint as mayor beginning in 2009 and ending Dec. 31, 2017.

In between all of that were those legislative halls, which really began in 1986 when Trulove stepped down as mayor to accept an appointment by then Gov. Booth Gardner to serve on the Northwest Power Planning Council. It was right up Trulove's alley not only as an economist, but as someone who had an interest in electrical power by another source - the Washington Public Power Supply System.

In the early to mid 1970s, WPPSS undertook the planning and construction of five nuclear reactors in the Northwest to supply power its planners felt would double every 10 years. It soon ran into trouble, caused by higher than expected inflation, new regulations and construction costs that overall quadrupled the project's costs.

Trulove saw what was coming - eventual bankruptcy - and ran for office when he found out Cheney's City Council was considering joining the WPPSS.

"I told the council they were making a mistake," Trulove said. "We twisted some arms, and they voted 4-3 to not get involved."

It was a good decision as WPPSS became involved in a number of lawsuits, defaulted on $2.25 billion in bonds and mothballed all but one of the plants, the Columbia Generating Station which was completed in 1984 at Hanford. Cheney still eventually had to raise its power rates, going up 50.8 percent in September 1982.

"If we had been part of that (WPPSS) it would've been more than that," Trulove said. "It would've been horrible."

The Northwest Power Planning Council was born out of the WPPSS experience, and Trulove's selection to it in 1986 was also due to his knowledge of power issues. He served on the council from 1986-1994, becoming vice chair in 1987 and chair from 1988-1990.

That experience got Trulove on several other statewide power committees and eventual selection to the Community Economic Revitalization Board (CERB) in 1999 as an economist, serving as chair in 2005 and again in 2007. It was on CERB that former director of the state's Freight Mobility Board and current executive director of the Transportation Improvement Board, Ashley Probart, came in contact with Trulove.

Probart said as a member of the Association of Washington Cities staff he watched Trulove's activities on CERB, admiring his ability to always find good policy regardless of a community's size. He also noted that Trulove served in other capacities, such as the first chair of the state's Public Works Trust Fund Board, which became a national model for funding public works projects.

"That's the stuff of legend here in Olympia," Probart said.

Trulove served on CERB for 13 years, an experience he said opened his eyes to new ways of economic development. CERB's responsibility was to provide funding for innovative projects, such as a proposal in Moses Lake that involved a Japanese firm wanting to build a facility to make electronic parts.

The process discharged a lot of contaminated water that needed disposal. Moses Lake proposed building a reservoir to store the water so that the contaminants eventually filtered out, with the end product used for irrigation.

"Really pretty innovative," Trulove said. "It was really a great idea, and brought a whole new industry to the state."

Trulove eventually was appointed to the Freight Mobility Board, which provides project funding, as well as the Washington Freight Advisory Council, the beginning of a number of involvements in transportation. Current FMB director Brian Ziegler served with Trulove on the board for 10 years, and said he always marveled at his ability to ask tough questions, see "through the smokescreen" to the truth and details of each project proposal.

"He probably made a few project applicants nervous, but I think it made for a better project," Ziegler said, adding he values Trulove's depth and breadth of knowledge along with his manners in answering questions.

"He always answered with a smile," he said.

Trulove also served on the Spokane Regional Transportation Council from 2013-2018, and on Spokane Transit Authority's board of directors from 2014-2018, becoming chair in 2016. STA executive director Susan Meyer said his leadership was key to the organization's success in passing a bond measure last year to help with construction of several regional transportation projects - including the West Plains Transit Center at Interstate 90's exit 272.

Meyer said Trulove's presence on the board brought "knowledge and credibility" to the first attempt at a ballot measure in 2015. That measure failed, partly because of the size of the proposed tax increase and over questions surrounding STA's handling of finances.

Meyer said Trulove stepped in as chairman the following year, and guided the board and the organization to clean up its finances and produce a financial plan for the future of the organization and how it would address transportation needs. It led to the second measure's passage.

"That earned a lot of respect from the community," Meyer said. "Tom understood the future well. Transportation is important, and would be even more important as the region grew."

It's this understanding of the complexity and essence of issues that Pullman Mayor Johnson said he admires about Trulove. There's also a commonality - both are not only mayors of cities with large universities, but also professors at those universities, with Johnson recently retiring after 35 years teaching TV news.

Both served on the Association of Washington Cities board, with Trulove as president from 1984-1985 and Johnson from 2009-2010.

"Tom has worked hard on behalf of Cheney," Johnson said, adding that Pullman has supported the city in its quest to get the state to widen State Route 904. Johnson also said Trulove has been heavily involved in economic development in Cheney, bringing a group of officials with him at one point to tour the Research and Technology Park, a joint effort between Pullman and WSU.

SR 904 and economic development are areas Trulove said he wishes he could have seen through in a third term as mayor. But he points to successes during his time as well, beginning with Cheney's solid waste disposal department being added to the city's list of services in 2010.

Trulove said that worked because of the city's solid waste fund, money that accumulated due to county landfill closures and enabled Cheney to purchase needed equipment. He added the city of Spokane also helped by keeping tipping fees at its Waste to Energy Plant low.

"He's (Trulove) the one that helped cut the better deal (on tipping fees)," TIB executive director Probart said.

Trulove worried when he took office in 2009 during the recession that he would become known as the "Mayor of Austerity." The city cut back on spending and utilized reserves to hold down fees for service, but as Cheney's economy began to rebound, mainly through construction, saw those reserves restored and a general fund balance that grew from $900,000 in 2009 to $4.5 million this year.

Looking into the future, Trulove said the city will need to deal with its water issues, issues that hinge mainly on seasonal usage rather than supply. Cheney also needs to put plans together for all of its utilities, similar to what its Light Department does.

File photo

Cheney Mayor Tom Trulove addresses the media at a Jan. 12, 2015 press conference regarding Washington cities needing to recover their shared liquor revenue from the state. Standing with him are fellow Association of Northwest Cities mayors Patrick Rushing (formerly of Airway Heights), Dorothy Knauss (Chewelah), Nan Konishi (Rosalia), Dean Grafos (formerly of Spokane Valley) and city of Spokane Mayor David Condon.

"I think it's time to have a more formal, long-term business plan," Trulove said. "We need to focus on those like a private business would and do what private businesses do with a business plan."

In Trulove's retirement - although he plans to stay on some local and state boards - Probart, Johnson, Ziegler and Meyer said Cheney is losing a valuable advocate, someone who has always tried to serve others.

"Wherever he served, Tom's going to be missed," Johnson said.

Probart recalled a humorous incident he heard from a friend during Trulove's tenure on the Northwest Power Planning Council working not only on power issues, but also fish and wildlife mitigation. An attorney attached to the council took Trulove fishing on the Puget Sound near Olympia one afternoon, Probart said. The duo sat on the Sound, lines in the water waiting for a bite.

After three hours and no nibble, Trulove had had enough. Probart said he stood up in the boat and screamed at the fish "After all the things I've done for you and you can't help me out?"

"His (Trulove's) heart is in his city," Probart said. "I hope your city realizes they had the gift of a strong mayor without paying for a strong mayor."

John McCallum can be reached at jmac@cheneyfreepress.com.

 

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