Mansfield Mayor Tom Snell steps down after 33-year term

Mike Maltais/QCH Mayor Tom Snell, left, presents the Town of Mansfield Award of Merit to Nancy and Ward Glessner during the 2019 Playday celebration. Observing the presentation next to Snell is Doug Tanneberg.

Courtesy Joe Skarda/ Snell served and was wounded in Vietnam with the 116th Assault Helicopter Company “Yellow Jacket” Platoon whose helicopters were adorned with the colorful yellow namesake.

MANSFIELD – The Town at the End of the Rails held its annual Playday celebration on Saturday, June 11, and this one included a special party more than three decades in the making: the retirement of its long-time mayor, Tom Snell.

Snell, a 1963 graduate of Mansfield High School, has taken the community service term “giving back” a step or two beyond the norm in more ways than one: He is a decorated veteran of the Vietnam conflict where he was wounded in action, and he is quite possibly the longest-serving town mayor in the state. Snell’s official retirement marked almost 33 consecutive years as Mansfield’s chief executive. Prior to that initial appointment in 1990 Snell sat on the city council since 1978. Then there was his 38 years of service as a Mansfield volunteer fireman, more than half of which he was the department’s chief.

Born in 1944 in Kalispel, Montana, Snell moved to Mansfield when he was four years old and, like his wheat farming family, sank deep roots in the close-knit rural community of – now - 343 residents (as of the 2018 census).

The U.S. Army came calling three years after Snell’s high school graduation and he was drafted into service in 1966. Following basic training at Fort Ord, California, and AIT (Advanced Infantry Training) at Fort Polk, Louisiana, Snell was assigned to the crew of the 1st Flight “Yellow Jacket” Platoon of the 116th Assault Helicopter Company whose colorful UH-1H “Huey” helicopter noses were decorated with the distinctive yellow namesake.

Wounded in action in 1967, Snell completed his service at Fort Irwin, California. He was discharged in 1968 with a Purple Heart, Vietnam Combat Medal, Foreign Service Medal, and 15 Air Medals signifying 1,500 hours of flight time.

Snell returned to Mansfield and the family wheat farm in 1968 but was soon serving his home community when he joined the volunteer fire department in 1970. Later that same year he married Issaquah transplant Mary McShane who had earned her education degree from Eastern Washington in 1969 and was teaching school in Mansfield.

The new Mrs. Snell’s original plans had been to teach for a couple years stateside before relocating to Europe to continue her teaching career there. In 1972 the first of three sons was born to the couple, cementing Mary’s commitment to devote 44 years to the Mansfield school system, earning her master’s degree from Heritage University along the way.

In 1972 Snell hired on as an equipment operator with Douglas County Transportation and Land Services where he remained until his retirement in 1999 as Mansfield Area Supervisor.

Election to the Mansfield City Council in 1978 came next and later appointment as the town’s mayor in 1990.

“Out of the 33 years I served I was only opposed twice,” Snell recalled.

During his tenure with the town Snell said he has watched Mansfield evolve from a small town that took care of itself to one that had to modernize with the tech age to meet state and federal infrastructure funding requirements. Computers are now a component of city administration “because the city has to keep track of everything possible,” said Snell. “Over the years we got quite a bit of federal money for projects like streets, our sewer lagoon, and remodeling city hall.”

Recent wildfires have been the principal natural disaster to threaten the town. Snell particularly recalled the 2020 Pearl Hill wildfire that approached within a half mile of the city and prompted the designation of the high school as an evacuation center.

“Most of the people just sheltered in place and hoped for the best,” Snell said.

“We’ve been really lucky over the years and got quite a bit of federal money to try to keep the small town a small town,” Snell said.






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