Jim and Edna White. COURTESY PHOTO, White family

Jim and Edna White. COURTESY PHOTO, White family

Former Kent Mayor Jim White Sr. dies | 1936 to 2023

White was mayor from 1994-2005 and helped bring Kent Station to town

Jim White Sr., who helped bring the Kent Station shopping center to town while mayor of Kent, died Sunday, June 25 in Mesa, Arizona, where he had retired. He was 87.

White served as mayor from 1994 through 2005. He was a Kent City Council member from 1984-93.

“We’ve lost our Patriarch, our ‘Papa,’ my love of 65 years, our ‘Best Dad Ever,’ our one and only ‘Big Papa’ and it just seems too soon,” his wife Edna White posted Monday, June 26 on Facebook. “He leaves a gaping hole in our hearts, but he has taught us to live life well: honor God, put family first, use your gifts to serve, be generous, travel, enjoy life.”

Edna White said her husband had another name as well.

“His other title, ‘Mr. Mayor’ was one of the highlights of his life,” she said. “He led with vision and modeled for many how to be a servant leader.”

Edna White shared her husband’s thoughts about how long he wanted to live.

“He told us often, ‘I want to live to be 100 or die in the attempt, but I’ve lived a good life, I have the best family and when God says it’s my time, I’m ready to go.’”

His wife shared one other comment.

“Jim White Sr., we are so proud that you were ours to love and we will see you soon on the other side,” Edna White said.

The city of Kent announced White’s death on its Facebook page.

“Jim left a lasting legacy in our community, and represented exactly what it means to be a servant leader,” according to the statement. “His thoughtfulness and kindness made our city a better place, and he is loved and will be remembered by many.

“In 2019, he was honored with a star at Kent Station, commemorating his achievement of leading negotiations to make the destination we all enjoy today a reality.

“Jim did so many positive and impactful things for Kent, and his vision for creating a gathering place for our community will be enjoyed for generations to come.”

White received a star in 2019 on the Kent Station plaza outside of the AMC theatre for his role to bring the shopping center to downtown in 2005.

The City Council voted 4-3 in 2004 to sell the city-owned property to Tarragon. A few council members were opposed because the city sold the property to the developer for a lower price than what the city had paid for it a few years earlier. White helped lead negotiations to buy the property from Borden Chemical.

“The star is a celebration of Mayor Jim White’s tireless work in bringing Kent Station to our downtown,” Kent Mayor Dana Ralph said in her weekly newsletter in 2019. “He was instrumental in making this happen. His vision to create a wonderful gathering place for the community to enjoy for generations to come has been recognized.”

Kent Station opened in late 2005 and has become a popular gathering spot for shopping, dining, entertainment and personal and professional services.

In hospital

Edna White posted June 22 on Facebook that Jim White Sr. was in the hospital.

“I am sitting at the hospital with my sweet husband and he said he wanted me to let you know he is still alive,” she said. “He has had pneumonia for a week and they are trying to figure out why he isn’t getting better. We would appreciate your prayers.”

On May 20, Edna White helped her husband celebrate his 87th birthday.

“Happy 87th birthday to the man I have loved for almost 66 years,” she said. “I am so proud of all of his accomplishments in life and the wonderful husband, dad, papa and great papa that he is. He is loved by his family and so many wonderful friends. I love you Jim White, Sr. and want to celebrate many more birthdays with you. I am blessed to have you for my husband.”

12 years as mayor

White and Suzette Cooke (2006 to 2017) are tied for the second longest tenure as mayor in Kent’s 133-year history behind Isabel Hogan, who served 16 years from 1969 to 1985, according to city records. Hogan died at the age of 94 in Kent in 2015. Cooke and White did not run for fourth terms.

In fact, White in 1996 vetoed a new city of Kent term-limits ordinance passed by the City Council, according to a 1996 Seattle Times article. The council voted to impose limits of three terms, or 12 years, on the mayor and council. The council didn’t overturn the veto. White called the term limits “an insult to the voters of Kent,” according to the story.

“I believe that the voters have the intelligence and sophistication to elect their mayor and council members on their merits,” White said in 1996. “The voters are perfectly capable of voting out an incumbent when they determine that a better candidate exists.”

Influence on Ralph

White had a large influence on Ralph’s decision to enter politics. White and his wife Edna returned to Kent in 2018 when Ralph was sworn in as mayor for her first term.

“Most of you know it’s Mayor White’s fault that I’m standing here,” said Ralph, who served on the city’s Land Use and Planning Board prior to running for council, according to a 2018 Kent News article. “He started me on this journey with Land Use and Planning many years ago, has been a consistent guiding voice to me and promised me he will keep answering his phone.”

White later in the 2018 meeting shared advice for the new council members and mayor during the council meeting’s public comment period.

“Serving on the council will be one of the most exhilarating things you do and also one of the most frustrating things you do,” White said. “People will not always agree with your decisions.”

White first served on the council in 1984. Voters elected him as mayor 10 years later.

“A lot of good times, a lot of tough times,” White said. “But I’ve always urged council members to do what you feel is in the best long-term interest of the city. Does that mean you are going to agree all of the time? No. Debate, discussion is healthy and sometimes you win, sometimes you lose. But you keep at it, you keep working to better the community and provide better service to the community.”

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Former Kent Mayor Jim White Sr. and Kent Mayor Dana Ralph in 2019 when White received a star at the Kent Station shopping center. FILE PHOTO

Former Kent Mayor Jim White Sr. and Kent Mayor Dana Ralph in 2019 when White received a star at the Kent Station shopping center. FILE PHOTO

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