Jack Geraghty (BA, 1956): Former mayor of Spokane, publisher, and civic leader
By Amanda Weber -
Jack Geraghty’s (BA, 1956) life story plays out much like a movie script. After he graduated from journalism school, he was drafted right away into the military, where he spent the first few years of his adult life. He then got his feet wet in the world of politics, at the ripe young age of 29, and was later elected mayor of Spokane. He’s also had success in the consulting business. Geraghty recently joined the ranks of those in the UW Department of Communication Alumni Hall of Fame.
“I was deeply honored and actually kind of excited at my late age in life to have my alma mater come through with something like this,” Geraghty said.
A man with a rich career working in communications, Geraghty’s passion for the subject began while learning from professors, like Merritt Benson, in the former School of Communications.
“Benson was kind of a curmudgeon, but was a great nuts and bolts teacher,” he said. “He came out of the operation of weekly newspapers and he was just a solid down-to-earth type of person. His famous line always was, ‘Tell ‘em what the people said,’ and it just always stuck with me my whole career.”
Straight out of college, Geraghty began practicing what Benson had taught, when he was drafted into the military and sent to Fort Ord in California. By chance, the people in Washington, D.C., were looking for a soldier with journalism experience. With his degree and the fact that he had experience working on weekly newspapers, North Central News in high school and The UW Daily, Geraghty impressed them so much that he was sent to edit the Service Stripe newspaper at Walter Reed Army Medical Center.
“It was kind of exciting,” he said. “Eisenhower was president, and he showed up there a few times. John Foster Dulles was being treated for cancer at the time. I got to meet some interesting people.”
After two years in D.C., Geraghty came home to finish two years in the reserves with the Air Force, serving as Lieutenant in the Air National Guard. He worked as the public information officer for the Air Guard unit in Spokane. Once his service was up, he was hired as a reporter for the Spokane Chronicle covering the courthouse beat, kindling his fire for politics.
“It’s kind of an Irish thing,” Geraghty said, on his interest in politics. “My grandfather had been the kind of titular democratic benevolent boss over in Spokane. He went on to be a Washington State Supreme Court Justice in the ‘30s, so that was in our family.”
In 1964, at the age of 29, Geraghty ran for and was elected Democratic Spokane County Commissioner. He was the youngest commissioner ever elected. As commissioner, he spearheaded the consolidation of Sheriff and Spokane police and corrections functions into a single public safety facility that remains today.
Over the years, Geraghty played roles in a handful of careers. He became involved with Expo ’74, World’s Fair, as vice president of Exhibitor and Guest Relations; an event which left the permanent legacy that is Spokane’s beautiful Riverfront Park in the heart of the city. He called this one of the “great decisions that I made in my life.”
Then, in 1975, he returned to journalism as a publisher, founding The Falls, a weekly newspaper based in Spokane. Unfortunately, Geraghty found the business to be more difficult than expected. “That was really a tough go because we were fighting the daily over here,” he said. “We were trying to emulate David Brewster and the Seattle weekly he had. We didn’t really have the base population to make it work. That’s probably one of my biggest disappointments.”
Although feeling defeated, Geraghty didn’t let his latest endeavor get him down. He decided, instead, to use the skills he learned in the School of Communications in a different venue; the public affairs consulting business.
With two firms, Jack Geraghty and Associates and Alliance Pacific Inc., he helped coordinate a number of successful bond issue campaigns in Spokane. “I’ve always been, at the base core of my ability and interest, a writer, so I’ve used that ability and talent in just about everything I did in the consulting business,” Geraghty said. His work helped along the development of four public libraries; an expanded Spokane Convention Center; renovation of four high schools and the construction of a new one; and several park and street improvement projects.
Seeing that he was able to accomplish so much for Spokane, Geraghty thought he could do even more if he were to take on an even bigger role in town. In 1993, he ran for Spokane mayor on a platform of saving the downtown commercial area, and greater neighborhood involvement in city decision-making.
“I’ve been here all my life,” he said. “I was really interested in getting back into the public life because at that time we were having real problems with the core area of the city. It was deteriorating badly. I just happened to believe that a community like Spokane needed a vibrant and vital downtown, and that’s when I ran for office.”
As the 39th mayor of Spokane, Geraghty learned that not everyone was agreeable on his plans for Spokane. “There were people around that didn’t think that was particularly important, or that thought that it would only benefit certain elements of the community,” he said. “That was a long, hard battle, but we were very successful if you look at downtown Spokane today.”
Geraghty’s hard work and persistence led to the development of the Riverpark Square mall, the restoration of the historic Davenport Hotel and many arts, restaurants and entertainment facilities. The Neighborhood Centers program that he helped start continues today as strong as ever.
Today, Geraghty is involved in the consulting business with his wife, Kerry Lynch, whom he calls “one of my inspirations.” Lynch, the former communications director for Spokane City Schools, heads up the business while he acts as senior advisor. They are both currently working on helping the Spokane tribe of Indians on a development project.
Geraghty still takes time to enjoy the things in his life that make it all worthwhile. Family has always been most important to him. All four of his siblings still live in Spokane. They get together often. He also has seven grandchildren, two step-daughters, and four grown daughters, two of whom went to Washington State University, while the other two are UW alumni. “We always had a little interesting banter back and forth,” he said.
Although everything hasn’t always worked out perfectly, Geraghty said, he’s satisfied with his career and what he’s accomplished. “It really stems right back to my days at the UW, and the discipline that we learned,” he said. “It was a great time and I made a lot of really good lifelong friends. It started me off and running.”