Former Washougal mayor T. Mason Smith died Thursday following a long battle with a serious illness.
Smith was 80 years old. Longtime Washougal residents remember him both for his entrepreneurial drive and his devotion to the city. Smith grew up in Utah and later spent 43 years in Washougal, where he put in two years on the City Council before serving as the mayor from late 1989 to 1991.
Smith attempted to recapture his old position as mayor in 2001, losing a four-way race to Charles Crumpacker. During the primary, Smith told The Columbian he was running to work on fixing transportation problems in what he then described as a fast-growing area.
“When good men do nothing, evil thrives,” Smith is quoted as saying in an article printed on Aug. 26 of that year. “We are in the same predicament as other small areas. The growth is so rapid out here, and a lot of problems are caused by (state) Highway 14 not being able to handle the traffic.”
Another former Washougal mayor, Jeff Guard, remembers Smith as a savvy businessman with a quirky pastime.
“He built what is essentially a (miniature) frontier town in his own backyard,” Guard said. “He carved his own totem poles.”
Before either of them held the mayor’s office, Guard and Smith served on the council together. The two sometimes locked horns, Guard said, but he always appreciated Smith’s ideas.
“When I was on the council with him, he had a very deep passion,” Guard said. “He was a good guy. He was always looking for things to bring to the community.”
Outside the public sector, Smith held several management jobs over the course of his life. In the 1960s, he owned a concrete and lumber company and he soon went on to manage a restaurant. In the late 1970s, Smith started a construction company in Washougal, and several years later, he became the general manager of a valve and fitting company in Portland.
“He was always looking for new businesses to start up,” Guard said.
And outside the office, Smith spent some time as a bishop.
After word of Smith’s death spread, the city of Washougal released a statement remembering him as a “beloved citizen and respected public servant.”
Mayor Sean Guard said he thinks of Smith as someone who was always around to help the city in one way or another.
“He was a very nice gentleman, and I stress the word ‘gentleman,’ ” Sean Guard said. “He was very quiet but he was always there somewhere.”