Patrick McMahan recalled as Mountlake Terrace city father

MOUNTLAKE TERRACE — People who know the history of south Snohomish County often refer to Patrick McMahan as Mr. Mountlake Terrace.

In 1953, he was among a handful of 20-somethings who worked to incorporate the city, then a community of new, low-cost houses that attracted veterans of World War II and the Korean War.

McMahan, 83, died Wednesday following a lengthy illness. He served as the city’s first fire chief, a planning commissioner, a city councilman, a charter member of the Chamber of Commerce and a 60-year advocate for his city and the Edmonds School District.

“He was a tremendous asset to Mountlake Terrace,” city manager John Caulfield said. “He helped form Community Transit, and just about everything good about this city exists because of his concern for his community. On a personal level, I can say Pat will be missed. We are heartsick at his passing.”

A 1948 graduate of Queen Anne High School in Seattle, McMahan joined the Seattle Fire Department in 1950 and bought his first house in Mountlake Terrace in 1952 for $6,200. That same year, Snohomish County Fire District 1 recruited McMahan to train 15 volunteer firefighters. Just a few months later, they were fighting fires. Later he formed McMahan Insurance Agency in order to support his growing family.

McMahan and his first wife Beverly had five children: Colleen, Terri, Maureen, Patrick Jr. and Kevin.

The school board several times asked McMahan to serve on building project committees, including for the school district’s football stadium.

His daughter Terri McMahan went on to serve as the Edmonds School District athletic director. What some people don’t remember is that Pat McMahan supported Title IX, which increased opportunities for girls to play competitive sports in school, she said.

“My father was an advocate for girls sports long before it was fashionable,” she said. “He had three athletic daughters and he wasn’t one to sit quietly when he knew discrimination was taking place. He wouldn’t take no for an answer. As a result Edmonds School District was a front-runner in establishing athletic opportunities for girls.”

Terri McMahan also said she is proud of her father’s leadership in establishing the city of Mountlake Terrace, which incorporated on Nov. 29, 1954. The community needed a police department, a sewer system, sidewalks and other advantages of a city.

“He wasn’t even 25 years old when he and others stepped up to create their city,” she said. “It was something that really isn’t even possible anymore. He had a vision and was always looking to benefit the greater good.”

Terri McMahan admitted her father could be stubborn and impatient. He always held up his end of an argument, she said.

U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell agreed. Before her political career began, Cantwell campaigned with McMahan in the 1980s to get funding for Mountlake Terrace’s current library building.

“What an incredible community leader Pat was,” Cantwell said. “His bluntness and his sense of humor is well-documented, well-recorded and well-remembered. He was a great man.”

Terri McMahan said she and her siblings loved making their dad laugh.

He also was a very intense man, said McMahan’s friend and former longtime Mountlake Terrace city manager Bob White.

“We didn’t do a whole lot of laughing, because we were always involved in the issues and in getting things done,” White said. “Pat had definite ideas on how to get those things done right. He cared about the development of the city.”

McMahan’s wife Carol said that, respecting her husband’s wishes, she doesn’t plan a funeral.

“He wanted a party,” Carol McMahan said. “And that’s what we will do sometime next month.”

Gale Fiege: 425-339-3427;

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