Drinking a Beer with Cody George

Cody George is a 31-year-old entrepreneur who recently opened Vintage Hill winery with friend and former state senator Brian Murray. George was an economic adviser to the city of Spokane until two weeks ago, when he was terminated by the mayor. We caught up with him between bottlings.

So, anything new in your life?

Yeah. A little bit of change. {Laughs} I'm still doing a lot of the stuff I was doing before [though]. Working at the winery, doing a lot of bottling. I'm still busy pretty much morning to night. I still sleep at home. I haven't slept at the winery yet.

Were you always such a busy guy? What were you like as a kid?

I was an only child. I played a lot of baseball, a lot of sports. Somehow I made it to business. I'd always kind of done little entrepreneurial things as a kid. Remember those little Atomic Fire Balls? When those first came out, I'd go buy 'em somewhere at the store for a nickel, take 'em to elementary school and mark 'em up for a quarter.

You really wanted to be an actor, though.

I lived in New York for a couple of summers, auditioning for TV shows and movies, print ads. I got close on a couple. And then I got a job after I left WSU, working for a small video production company in town. I work[ed] for North by Northwest. I also worked for WB 22, as a kind of TVJ person. We'd show up at events ... and say "We're ACME TV. Now back to the Saturday movie," or whatever. We'd say something like "Sonics at 2."

Then the move to politics?

After I'd been doing a bunch of political campaign stuff ... I worked as a public information officer for the Republican [state] Senate caucus. [Before that] I worked for a few different candidates. At the end of the session, I came back here to work for North by Northwest, and [Jim] West ran for mayor and surprisingly won. He asked me to come on and do some policy for him. I said "no" a few times and then finally [relented].

A lot of your work had to do with improving Spokane's image. Did the Jim West debacle undo all that work?

Every community goes through different struggles and different issues. No one person's actions or activities can completely shade all the other good work and good things that this community is doing and has done. It was a tragic time. For a lot of folks. And I think it was rough thing for the community. Hopefully the community puts it in the past.

You worked for Dennis Hession, too. Why do you think he lost re-election? Was it the Corbin Park garbage "scandal"?

It's funny. Local government, that's when those issues hit home. It's the basic stuff that people care about the most. If your water doesn't turn on in the morning, if your street isn't plowed, that's the stuff people deal with every single day. It's easy to get frustrated as a citizen or a community about those types of things. I can't say exactly why he lost. But you gotta remember this town has not re-elected a mayor in 30-plus years. We don't do that. Which is really too bad.

Your fourth mayor just fired you. Did you see it coming?

I thought it was possible when the election happened. But she never talked to me about it. Before or after. But it's part of how the whole thing works. I'm not going to pass judgment on how she's choosing to run the administration. Good for her, good luck. I wish the best for the city.Where will the city be in 20 years?

I see nothing but positive. We have an economy that's going to keep on moving. It's not a sleepy town ... When I was a kid, this was not a place where the younger folks stayed. It's different now. People want to move back. The restaurants are busy. Spokane is a cool place to be.

What will be the challenges?

Changing the mentality. There are a lot of people who haven't thought much of [the city]. That's changing. People are actually believing. People start businesses and put personal capital on the line. We need people to take risks, spend money. Not a lot. But the more people thinking that, the more successful we can be.

What would you do if you were czar for the day?

I guess there could be more focus and activity around the river. More downtown housing. A grocery store downtown. [Although] Denver doesn't have one, and that's a much bigger city. The community needs to think big. And some of the ideas may not survive, but a lot of it will survive. It's more about the attitude of the people and how they choose to engage.

Will you miss working for the public?

The public sector is a difficult place to get some stuff done. Working the maze makes less sense than eliminating the maze itself. In the private sector, you can take action. You can create something from scratch.

When you're not making wine, managing apartments, starting businesses and spending time with your wife, what else are you doing?

I've been training for the Coeur d'Alene Olympic triathlon. It's a lot of fun. I'm playing with the idea of a half-Ironman. [But] the more I meet you for beer, the less likely I am to do it.

Santa Express

Through Dec. 20
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About The Author

Joel Smith

Joel Smith is the media editor for The Inlander. In that position, he manages and directs Inlander.com and edits all copy for the website, the newspaper and all other special publications. A former staff writer, he has reported on local and state politics, the environment, urban development and culture, Spokane's...