Susan Gould, two-term state senator, dies at age 87

Susan Gould

Susan Gould

EDMONDS — Susan Gould strongly supported women’s rights but was never one to carry a banner in a march.

Rather, the moderate Republican blazed a trail for women in Snohomish County through a lifetime of civic service marked by eight years in the state Senate from 1975 to 1983.

“She was out there doing the work,” said Kevin Gould, the eldest of her three children. “In that era for us, it was very much inspirational and developmental to have your mother be a politician.”

Gould died March 9 at the age of 87.

Born Aug. 9, 1929, in Seattle, Gould went to public schools and graduated from Roosevelt High School.

She attended Whitman College and graduated from the University of Washington with a bachelor’s degree in chemistry. She worked as a research chemist for Crescent Spice Co.

She married Ramon Gould in 1950. The couple lived in Seattle before moving to Edmonds in 1960 where they raised three children. She became a fulltime mom and increasingly active in the community.

She joined the Snohomish County chapter of the League of Women Voters in the mid-1960s, eventually becoming its president, her son said.

That set her on a course of deepening civic involvement. Interested in education because of her children, she won a seat on the Edmonds School Board where she served from 1968-74.

She won an open seat in the state Senate in 1974 in the 21st Legislative District. She won re-election four years later, garnering 74 percent of the vote.

As a senator she focused on education, human services, fiscal policy and nuclear power. In her final year, she chaired the Senate Energy and Utilities Committee, the Special Legislative Committee on Washington Public Power Supply System and the Northwest Power Planning Committee.

During that period, her unflinching concern about the financial viability of the Washington Public Power Supply System’s expansion plans proved influential in swaying the WPPSS board to abandon construction of Plants 4 and 5.

In her two terms, Gould became one of the chamber’s most respected members. She was known for focusing on policy not politics, doing the work and not grandstanding.

“She was just one of those elected officials that was clearly interested in good government,” said Bob Drewel, a former Snohomish County executive. “No matter what the problem was at hand, she’d find a solution.”

Her blend of self-deprecating humor, sensitivity and moderate political philosophy contrasted with the sharper edged conservatives in the Republican caucus at that time.

“She was someone with whom you could work on issues,” said Phil Talmadge, a former Democratic state senator and Supreme Court justice, who served with Gould for four years.

He described her as a “Dan Evans Republican” who “was not uncomfortable with the concept of government and was not uncomfortable with governing.”

In an oral history, another former senator, Ray Moore of Seattle, called Gould a “charming person” sent by the League of Women Voters “to shape up the Senate.”

Moore was a Republican and switched parties because of the GOP’s stance on the death penalty.

Of Gould, he said, “I always felt she would have liked to be a Democrat, but our gentility level wasn’t up to her standards.”

As her legislative career wound down, some folks reportedly wanted her to consider running for governor in 1984. She swatted away the idea in an interview with the Seattle Post-Intelligencer.

“No, I really don’t want the job. I have another life, you know outside this,” she said, referring to the Senate chamber. “I am not comfortable with politics. I like a good battle, but it’s got to be over issues. Politics gets in the way of a good clean discussion of the issues. That frustrates me.”

Gould added to her civic resume after leaving office. She served on the Central Washington University Board of Trustees and was a founding member of the Citizen’s Education Center NW and the Public Education Foundation. She held leadership roles with United Way of Snohomish County, United Way of Washington and Big Brothers/Sisters. She also received the South Snohomish County Chamber of Commerce Citizen of the Year.

Gould also was a highly skilled cook, seamstress and bridge player, according to her son.

She is survived by her husband of 66 years, Ray Gould, a former Edmonds city councilman and renowned expert on bamboo fly rods; her children Kevin, Meredith and LeaAnn, and six grandchildren.

A memorial service is planned for 3 p.m. March 31 at United Methodist Church in Edmonds, 828 Caspers St.

In lieu of flowers, family members ask that donations be made in her memory to CRISTA Senior Living, Good Samaritan Fund, 19303 Fremont Ave. N, Shoreline, WA., 98133 or League of Women Voters at lwv.org.

Jerry Cornfield: 360-352-8623; jcornfield@heraldnet.com. Twitter: @dospueblos.

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