Washington State lawmakers mourn passing of former 40th District legislator

Former 40th District Senator Harriet Spanel

Former 40th District Senator Harriet Spanel

It is with much sadness that we announce former Washington State Senator Harriet Spanel (D-40th) has passed away. She was 77 years old. 

Spanel, a long-time Democrat and resident of Bellingham, was first elected to the Washington State House of Representatives in 1987 and later was elected to the Senate. While there served as a member of the Financial Institutions, Housing & Consumer Protection, Natural Resources, Ocean & Recreation, Transportation and Rules committees. She was also the Majority Caucus Chair until 2008.

Spanel was born and raised on an Iowa farm and earned her Bachelors degree in mathematics from Iowa State University. She is a long-time activist and was involved in a wide variety of organizations including the League of Women Voters. (Wikipedia)

After leaving the Senate, Spanel continued to actively serve the people of Washington state as she was appointed to several boards and commissions by the governor.

During the late ‘90s Spanel also played a key role in implementing a moratorium on state clear-cutting in the Lake Whatcom Watershed. In 2000, she also introduced the legislation that created the Lake Whatcom Forest Management Plan.

Bellingham Mayor Kelli Linville, who worked alongside Spanel as a 42nd District Representative, called her "a colleague, friend, and one of the strongest women I know." 

Sen. Jeanne Kohl-Welles (D-Seattle) called Spanel "a wonderful person, policymaker and friend." 

Sen. Kevin Ranker (D-Orcas) said he was saddened by the news and that the state has lost "an incredible leader."

“Harriet Spanel was a dear friend and mentor to me," Ranker said. "She has been a sounding board and a true mentor on countless issues for me as I have navigated Olympia these past eight years.

“She was a tireless fighter for our communities, our children, the environment and our state. She was a champion for the protection of Puget Sound and oil spill protection laws and was a strong advocate for protecting habitat and ensuring that our fisheries were well-managed and that our fishing industry remained a healthy one.

“We have lost an incredible leader and a dear friend.

“She will be deeply, deeply missed.”

A service has been scheduled for 10:30 a.m. Saturday, Feb. 20, at Church of the Assumption, 2116 Cornwall Ave. A reception will follow. 

In lieu of flowers, the family asks that contributions be made to one of her favorite causes, including the Dr. Leslie Spanel Memorial Planetarium Endowment, c/o Western Washington University FoundationWhatcom Hospice and Whatcom Land Trust.