LYNNWOOD — Former mayor Don Gough, who steered the city through the Great Recession and helped lay a foundation for several major developments, died Tuesday at the age of 70.
Gough served a decade on the City Council until getting elected mayor in 2005. He served two terms — not without controversy — before losing his bid for a third in 2013.
Last year he campaigned to get back on the council, surprising close friends who knew he wasn’t well.
“He was very ill but he was a man that had a lot of passion for the city and never gave up,” said Ted Hikel, a close friend who served on the council during much of Gough’s mayoral tenure.
In a statement, Mayor Christine Frizzell cited Gough’s leadership in completing a plan for the City Center and advancing critical projects, such as widening 44th Avenue West and building a pedestrian bridge over 44th, connecting the Interurban Trail with the Lynnwood Transit Center.
On his watch, early planning began on the Lynnwood Link light rail extension, and he helped shepherd the renovation of the city’s pool into a state-of-the-art recreation center.
In August 2010, a judge criticized the former mayor’s treatment of female staff and found he disrespected and berated a former top assistant. There were also financial troubles, including a $5 million budget deficit in 2010 and a state auditor report that faulted the city for failing to control costs.
That same month, a majority of the City Council, which had been doing its own investigation of his interactions with employees, passed a resolution calling on Gough to resign. Hikel, a councilman at the time, abstained from the vote.
“Don was a perfectionist and demanded as much of himself as he did of the people who worked for him,” Hikel said.
He noted Gough’s management style rubbed some the wrong way.
“Don was not a touchy-feely kind of guy,” he said. “He was not a glad-handing mayor. He was an administrator. He was a working mayor.”
Frizzell’s statement lauded Gough for leading the city through the financial turmoil of the Great Recession.
“Through critical decision-making, Lynnwood was able to keep City services functioning and get us back on a path to recovery,” she said.
City Council President George Hurst said it wasn’t an easy task.
“I know he made a lot of tough decisions and some unpopular decisions, as far as cutting back expenditures, but in the end, he did bring the city through the financial crisis,” Hurstsaid.
During that period, Gough worked with the City Council to set up an emergency fund, Hurst said. When the COVID-19 pandemic and economic downturn began in 2020, the city could draw on money in the fund, he said.
Gough’s decision to run last year after having already served nearly two decades in elected office showed his commitment to the community, Hurst said. Gough lost in the primary election by three votes.
“He was still interested in serving the city,” he said.
Gough is survived by his wife, JoAnn, two children and four grandchildren.