A few years after Sid Snyder retired as Washington Senate majority leader in 2002, elected leaders from both parties voted to honor by him renaming the street leading to the state Capitol in Olympia “Sid Snyder Avenue.”
It was a fitting tribute to a gracious man who worked tirelessly and in the best interests of our state.
Snyder, who died on Oct. 14 at 86, was an icon. He was a politician whose respectful demeanor was in sharp contrast to today’s rancorous partisan atmosphere in Washington, D.C. The manner in which Snyder approached public service is a model today’s politicians should look to and emulate.
He bridged differences and fashioned compromises. He genuinely liked the people with whom he worked at the state Capitol. In turn, they befriended him.
Simply, it was hard to find anyone who had a bad word to say about him.
Snyder respected the process by which laws were made. He labored long and hard to produce results for taxpayers, understanding, that while it might be easy to point the finger of blame at others, it is much harder to find agreement.
He was fond of telling everyone that he started as an elevator operator at the state Capitol in 1949, worked his way up to secretary of the Senate and was elected Senate majority leader in 1995.
Snyder was a true citizen legislator. He owned and operated Sid’s Market in Long Beach. On many nights and weekends, he would drive the winding two-lane state highways from Olympia to stock the shelves in his store and meet with constituents. To Snyder, these folks weren’t just voters; they were his hardworking friends and neighbors.
His district, which spread from Aberdeen south to the mouth of the Columbia River and east to Longview, suffered more than its share of economic hardships.
When the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service put the Northern spotted owl on the threatened-species list in 1992, loggers, truckers, tree planters and mill workers lost their jobs.
When the marbled murrelet, a small seabird that nests in the coastal forests of the Pacific Northwest, was listed as a threatened species, it added to his constituents’ adversity.
Then, fishermen and charter-boat operators in his district were hit hard when the listing of several Pacific Northwest salmon runs curtailed commercial and sports fishing.
Those lean years at Westport and Ilwaco wore on Snyder. But what galled him most was when an army of Caspian terns moved onto a sand island in the lower Columbia River and started gobbling up the young salmon heading to the Pacific Ocean.
To Snyder, it didn’t make sense to allow the terns to dive bomb the young salmon and let California sea lions feast on the adult fish at the base of Bonneville Dam. Those decisions hurt working families in his district, and the challenge of all of those government regulations was overwhelming for the people he represented.
Snyder was a gracious, hard-working public servant who rarely personalized differences and leveraged his sense of humor to ease heated spats. His stories and tales were in good taste and funny. He had a calming effect on a legislative process that has often been likened to making sausage.
For years to come, people will walk along Sid Snyder Avenue, and some young child might ask who Snyder was. For those of us who knew, admired and worked with him, the answer is easy: He was a gentleman who liked people and worked tirelessly to do his best to help them.
Don Brunell is president of the Association of Washington Business, Washington state’s chamber of commerce. Visit Association of Washington Business.