Bill Blair wanted to ‘make his community better’

Bill Blair, 69, an active member of the community who served on the city’s Planning Commission, died June 19 at his home in Covington.

Bill Blair, 69, an active member of the community who served on the city’s Planning Commission, died June 19 at his home in Covington.

He was diagnosed in April with glioblastoma, a common and aggressive type of brain tumor.

Blair’s wife, Marlla Mhoon-Blair, a Covington City Council member, described her husband as a man who “was known for his deep compassion, keen intellect and extensive community involvement.”

After Blair’s diagnosis, the couple decided to make the most of life.

“Originally we were told with treatment we would have six months to a year,” she said. “We decided to celebrate every day of it. Started off by getting married.”

Blair was appointed the Planning Commission by the City Council on March 28, 2006. His term on the commission would have expired Aug. 31, 2009. He served as chairman of the commission from November 2006 through October 2007. 

Blair spent more than a year working with the commission on the tree preservation ordinance, which was passed by the council last February. The ordinance overhauled the city’s existing regulations that had previously allowed developers to clear-cut property and replant a minimum number of small trees while building.

Commission members, including Blair, were concerned that the old ordinance which was on the books for more than six years wasn’t doing a very good job preserving trees in Covington.

The city’s planning manager, Richard Hart, said the commission won’t be the same without Blair.

“I was incredibly saddened to hear of Bill’s untimely passing,” Hart said. “I only knew him for 18 months, but he was chairman of the Planning Commission for a year while I was first here. He worked with me as the lead on the new tree preservation ordinance and helped guide that effort through meetings and hearings. He was a tireless volunteer, always considering the total interests of the entire community when making a decision.”

Blair was considered the go-to man on the commission for information about the tree ordinance and talked to the Reporter on several occasions about it.

In 2007, two years after moving to Covington, Blair was honored as the city’s Commissioner of the Year for his work in promoting a tree preservation ordinance. It was the culmination of his lifelong interest in environmental causes and livable neighborhoods.

“I found Bill to be a great listener and always encouraging the public to become involved and participate in the process of government and their community,” Hart said. “He always challenged his fellow members on the commission to consider the long-term effects of their decisions. He was a strong supporter of the preservation of our priceless natural resources. While I only knew Bill for a short time, I considered him a true friend of mine, who really wanted to leave a legacy and make his community better for future generations.”

Blair was born April 2, 1939, in Milwaukee, Wis. After high school, he attended the University of Wisconsin-Madison, which he left to serve in the Wisconsin Army National Guard. After that, he moved to Washington.

He earned degrees in art and architecture from the University of Washington and in landscape architecture from Harvard University.

At Jones and Jones Architects and Landscape Architects in Seattle, Blair was involved in designing the Spokane River Trail, Green River Trail and Gene Coulon Park in Renton. He subsequently maintained a consulting practice that took him to Argentina, Alaska and China.

In 1989, Blair joined the Open Space Program at Seattle Parks and Recreation. During his tenure there, which spanned nearly two decades, he worked to acquire hundreds of acres of green space in Seattle, as well as secure more than $50 million in matching funds to pay for the land.

Blair was actively involved in a number of organizations, ranging from political organizations such as the 36th District Democrats and the 47th District Democrats to Seattle Sea Kayak Club, Washington Water Trails, Queen Anne Community Council, Washington Kayak Club, Puget Sound Mycological Society, Seattle Mountaineers, Seattle Open Space Advocates, American Civil Liberties Union and the Sierra Club.

In addition to his wife, Blair is survived by his daughter, Heather Blair, of Palo Alto, Calif., who is expecting her first child with husband Craig Coley; step-daughter Kendra Mhoon-Coatney and her husband Marty Coatney of Lebanon, Ore.; step-son Darren Mhoon of Renton and one grandson.

Staff writer Kris Hill can be reached at (425) 432-1209 (extension 5054) and