When news came that Mike Chappell had passed away, I couldn't believe it. He was so young. It was only Thursday night when I saw him last at the Saranac, there to congratulate Bart Mihailovich on winning the Inlander's Peirone Prize for his work on the Spokane River. We laughed about "the bear photobomb." He asked me tough questions about coal. That was Mike: Good sense of humor but understood the underlying seriousness which led to a deep committment on environmental issues.
I was continually impressed by his intelligence and I looked up to Mike. I learned a lot from the way he handled the settlement with the City Of Spokane for PCB contamination in the Spokane River. I would see Mike at City Hall, unflappable, excited how he hoped the money would be used for monitoring pollution, creating an adaptive management plan and more Low Impact Development. I thought, wow, that would be awesome but it all seemed too good to be true, given the history of Spokane's reluctance to work out progressive solutions for our watershed. I was wrong, of course, and after much back-and-forth with the City, it worked. He gave me a nice pat on the back and you could see he was enthused about next steps. It was a big win for the citizens and the river.
When I first met Mike several years ago, we bonded immediately. I had just returned from San Francisco and we were at Green Drinks. I told him how happy I was to be back in Spokane. Mike told me he had just moved from San Francisco and how happy he was to be here. The people are kind, the river is beautiful, and it's a great place for the family, he said. Mike was a terrific husband and father with a strong connection to this place.
Like many, I will miss Mike but his spirit is here in everything we do.