Wanting to be active in local government, Michael Echanove in 1994 ran for Palouse City Council and won — just in time to help the town confront its biggest crisis, the flood of 1996. Water overflowed the banks of the Palouse River, inundating this small community 15 miles north of Pullman. Buildings were damaged, businesses destroyed.
“The entire downtown needed a lot of help,” said Echanove, a computer systems administrator for WSU Information Technology Services (ITS). “Storefronts were closed and the town was in real economic decline.
“The city began an assessment of our situation and plans for the changes we would need to make. We started work on a grant to rebuild the downtown infrastructure.
“It took several years,” he said, “but we wrote a grant to a total of seven funding partners, including the federal and state governments, for a $2.5 million project. The project replaced the sidewalks and streets and added lighting and landscaping to create a pedestrian-friendly environment that has fostered both economic development and community.”
Completed in 2000, the project remade the central business area and was the foundation for an economic renaissance.
“We now have a thriving town,” Echanove said. “I am a strong believer in partnerships. If we provide the infrastructure, our partners in private enterprise will rebuild the business community. That is just what happened in Palouse.”
Working at WSU gave him insight into positive change and growth over the years, he said.
“It has taught me how important strong leadership and dedication is to long-term success.”
One result of his leadership in the successful grant project was his election in 2002 as mayor of Palouse.
“I have three years until the next election,” he said. “There’s more work to do, and I am just as excited to be in city government as I was when I first started 14 years ago.”
He also plans to keep his day job at WSU.
“As mayor, I just got a raise. I now make $250 every month,” he laughed. “So, I think I will continue working here at IT, as well.”
Echanove came to WSU in 1984. He and his wife raised three children in Palouse.
“I’m really a country boy who grew up on a south Idaho cattle ranch,” he said. “I wanted to live in a smaller town.
Approximately 40 percent of Palouse homes have someone employed at or retired from WSU, he said.
“There is truly a strong bond between WSU and Palouse.”