Former Democratic state Senate Majority Leader Sid Snyder, who died Sunday at age 86, is remembered as a politician who got along with everyone.
OLYMPIA — At a time when Republicans and Democrats are often at each others’ throats, former Senate Majority Leader Sid Snyder was remembered Monday as a politician who seemed to get along with everyone.
“He didn’t see politics as a blood sport or a winner take all,” said Randy Hodgins, a former staff coordinator for the Senate Ways and Means Committee. “Everybody likes to win and get their way, but he also understood compromise is how civil societies get things done.”
Mr. Snyder, a Democrat whose career in Olympia spanned 54 years, died Sunday at home in Long Beach, Pacific County. He was 86.
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Mr. Snyder’s first job at the state Capitol was as an elevator operator at the House of Representatives. That was in 1949.
After almost 40 years in Democratic administrative positions, from elevator operator to secretary of the Senate, he retired in 1988 — only to return two years later as a state senator.
His district’s senator had died in office and Mr. Snyder won a special election to fill the seat. He intended to serve out only the remaining two years but instead won a leadership post and was easily re-elected several times.
Ex-lawmakers and legislative staffers saw him as a role model.
“I appreciated being able to look at his method of leading and figured you don’t have to be nasty to lead,” said retired Democratic House Majority Leader Lynn Kessler, of Hoquiam. “You can lead with great strength and lead with great conviction, but you don’t have to torch people who are in the minority.”
Republicans who served with Mr. Snyder also offered praise.
“We didn’t always agree on issues but we worked together very closely and got to be good friends,” said former Speaker of the House Clyde Ballard, a Republican who represented the 12th District in the Wenatchee Valley. “Our spouses were also good friends. When I think of Sid, I just think of fond memories.”
Marty Brown, a longtime Olympia veteran and former budget director under Gov. Chris Gregoire and former Gov. Gary Locke, noted Mr. Snyder’s work ethic.
He remembered working with several lawmakers one day to finalize a gas-tax measure that would go to voters. Mr. Snyder was in the thick of it along with everybody else, even though he’d just had dental surgery.
“He had this toothache and takes off for an hour and has two root canals and comes back to put together the transportation package,” Brown said.
Mr. Snyder also was known for his encyclopedic knowledge of the Legislature and Senate rules, and his insistence on following those rules.
In 1997, when Republicans controlled the Senate, he became angry when the GOP wanted to change legislative rules so they could vote for a third time on a budget proposal that had failed twice before.
“To Sid, the Senate rules were like the Ten Commandments. You don’t change the rules,” Hodgins said.
Mr. Snyder resigned from office in frustration over the GOP maneuver. But he returned a week later after both Democrats and Republicans sent letters urging him to return.
“The body needs individuals like you with your institutional history,” said one letter signed by 23 of the 26 Republicans in the Senate.
Mr. Snyder retired for good after finishing out his term in 2002 at 76, to work at his two grocery stores, Sid’s Market and the Midtown Market, in Long Beach.
In an interview at the time, he said it would be a clean break. “When you split up with your girlfriend, you don’t keep hanging around her house,” he said.
The Legislature honored him in 2006 by renaming the road leading onto the Capitol campus Sid Snyder Avenue.
Hodgins said he ran into Mr. Snyder at the Capitol rotunda several years after his retirement, while Mr. Snyder was on a field trip with his grandson. Hodgins was struck by the fact that only a few years earlier the former senator would have been surrounded by people wanting to talk to him.
Mr. Snyder, though, wasn’t bothered by the lack of attention, Hodgins said.
“He was smiling and beaming. He loved that building and loved that town. It was more important to him that day that he happened to be there with his grandson on a field trip showing off someplace where Grandpa used to work.”
Mr. Snyder is survived by his wife of 61 years, Bette Kennedy Snyder, three children and four grandchildren.
Services will be at 11 a.m. Saturday at the Carl P. Aase Gymnasium at Ilwaco High School in Ilwaco.
Andrew Garber: 360-236-8266 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Material from The Seattle Times archives and The Associated Press was used in this story.