Building Community: Ben Stuckart

Headshot of Ben Stuckart

December 05, 2014

Ben Stuckart

Let’s Make Livable Neighborhoods

Two years after moving into his South Hill home, Spokane City Council President Ben Stuckart ('01, M.O.L. '06) didn’t know his neighbors. Why? Because he didn’t walk.

"We didn’t walk around our neighborhood that much until we got a dog," Stuckart said. "Then we got the dog and started walking her a couple times a day. Now I know everyone in a three- or four-block radius."

That simple activity is an integral part of Stuckart's views on community development. "If you're walking all the time, you're getting to know your neighbors, which creates safety," Stuckart said. The idea is simple. All the basic needs of a community should be within a 20-minute walk. In a self-perpetuating cycle, an enjoyable neighborhood attracts talented young people, which in turn attracts business and investment, which attracts more talent.

Stuckart believes city government should provide the infrastructure necessary for communities to thrive. Spokane's bustling Perry Street District is a prime example. "If you go back 20 years, Perry Street was unsafe and economically depressed," Stuckart said. That changed after the city invested in the neighborhood.

In 2013, Stuckart introduced an investment plan to re-create such success on East Sprague Avenue, by spending $10 million to build streets, sewer, water and housing developments.

"It’s very circular," he said. "In order to create the community you want, you have to have a sense of community to get companies to come here and get people to stay here."

Stuckart saw the effects of decentralized community firsthand when he graduated from Gonzaga. The majority of his friends fled Spokane, as did he. The exodus of talented graduates is disturbing to Stuckart. The best way to keep the talent? Make neighborhoods where people want to live.

Stuckart fully realized what he wanted to do with his life when he graduated from Gonzaga's Master’s in Organizational Leadership program. Professors Joe Albert and Mike Carey told him that the goal of the program was to rearrange and realign the lives of the graduates. That happened. He realized he no longer wanted to work in the for-profit world.

"There were quite a few classes that just told me I didn't want to be out there working for profit for some shareholder I didn't know," he said. He went into nonprofit leadership, running Communities in Schools in Spokane, but even that didn't satisfy his desire for social change.

In 2011, he ran for City Council. The most important thing that municipal government can do? Make a city conducive to a young, creative community.

"Young people don't want to stay somewhere that is cold and disconnected," he said.