Our Voice: John Fox built legacy with decades of service

Richland residents owe a big thanks to John Fox.

He spent decades trying to making it a better place to live and work.

Since the 1970s, Fox has served on the school board, the parks and planning commissions, the city council and spent six years as mayor.

At age 86, Fox retired from the council at the end of 2013. We can hardly blame him. He has put in more time on behalf of a city than one could ever expect. It wasn't as if Fox didn't win another term; he actually decided not to run.

We like to see longtime elected officials go out on their own terms, and Fox certainly did. Another thing we admire - he doesn't plan to attend council meetings telling them how he would be doing things if he were still in office. He has graciously passed the baton to the next generation of civic leaders.

During his years in public office in Richland, Fox has seen many changes. From his early days on the school board when the debate was over whether to build more schools or switch to a year-round calendar to helping with plans for the city's new community center on Amon Park Drive to the big growth in population and property values during his time on the council.

Fox said the legacy he leaves will play out in the long-range strategic plan the city developed under his watch.

It provides an "enduring framework" for the city moving forward. Having an agreed upon plan has created greater cooperation throughout the city.

"It's looking at the balanced best interest of the total community," he said of the plan, which he calls one of the most important things he has been involved in during his time on the council.

Fox has served as a mentor to new council members in Richland and other communities throughout the Tri-Cities.

A group of the four mayors even started meeting regularly during Fox's time to talk about issues and share ideas.

Mayor Steve Young of Kennewick said Fox is "the most honest, professional, compassionate person I think I've ever known." And that's saying a lot.

When Fox was giving his farewell speech to the council in December, he said the time had come for him to retire. He said it had been his good fortune to be a part of the council for more than a decade.

But don't think Fox is going to get lazy in his retirement. Though he looks forward to a schedule with fewer meetings, he's an active member of groups like the B Reactor Museum Association and the Columbia Basin Badger Club.

Fox's spirits are high and he is grateful for the experience he's had as one of Richland's leaders.

"I've met a lot of people who I wouldn't have otherwise met, and I've enjoyed the relationships and the trust I've built there," he said, "and I hope that endures in some way.

Trust us, John, it will. You've done this community a great service.

Enjoy your "retirement" and thank you for your service.