I read recently in the Herald-Republic about the passing of Don Schussler. I wanted to express my deepest condolences to his family and to take this opportunity to recognize a few of Don’s significant accomplishments as a member of the City Planning Commission and the Yakima City Council, and with whom I had the honor to work with in my career with the city of Yakima. Don’s public service for the Yakima was truly exceptional, visionary and enduring.

Don was a leader in promoting regional planning and sustainable economic development in the community. In the early 1970s he helped to spearhead the enactment of a four-party intergovernmental wastewater agreement among the city of Yakima, Yakima County, Union Gap and the Terrace Heights Sewer District to combine resources and secure greater federal and state assistance to build and extend wastewater services throughout the area. It was the first such agreement between separate governmental entities in the state, and it continues today as a notable example of intergovernmental cooperation and leadership. It helped to deliver sanitary sewer service to residents, protect the environment and encourage greater economic growth and development throughout the region.

Don was also instrumental in leading the council and the residents of Yakima to adopt the first council district plan for elections in 1974 to encourage greater ethnic diversity and representation from within four new council districts to better serve the community.

Throughout his tenure on the City Council, Don also was a champion for improving the quality of life for all residents. He encouraged the city to apply for federal block grant funds to improve housing conditions in Yakima for elderly and disadvantaged people. He worked with his fellow council members to purchase the trolleys and to construct the city’s first convention center to enhance tourism and attract conventions and visitors to the city. He supported the purchase and reconstruction of The Capitol Theatre for all citizens young and old to enjoy arts and entertainment. Don believed in giving back to the Yakima community and helping it successfully meet the needs and aspirations of all its residents.

Don was also a strong advocate for the adoption and retention of the council-manager form of government in Yakima. He believed it afforded the best opportunity for good governance and professional municipal management working together in conducting city business on behalf of all people in Yakima. He gave me great advice and wise counsel over the years, for which I will always be grateful.

Don’s service, statesmanship and legacy of leadership for the city of Yakima and its people truly made a difference while he was in office and continues to stand the test of time after his passing.

Dick Zais was Yakima’s city manager from 1979 to 2011. He lives in Olympia.