IMMORTALS Inductee: ‘By Acclamation’—Larry Coffman

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Pub Note: Just before the end of THE EVENT on May 25th, MARKETING IMMORTAL Pat O’Day (at right in photo) took the stage to insist that attendees give me “the longest standing-O in the history of this room.” As the applause continued, daughter and co-host Melissa, prompted by good friend Duane Riedesel (also with a proxy from absent IMMORTAL Bill Hoke) and others, seized the moment and insisted I be declared a MARKETING IMMORTAL by acclamation.

My thanks to all for a very humbling—and deeply appreciated—moment. Which means that I now must write the bio that I’ve tasked all the others with over the years since the IMMORTALS pantheon debuted in 2007…

Larry Coffman has spent 98% of his working life in the Seattle area, since moving  here in 1964, after a one-year stint with the Associated Press in Albany, NY, following graduate school at Syracuse University.

Larry was born in Bowling Green, OH, on May 25, 1937 and moved to Aberdeen, MD, soon afterward, where he grew up and attended high school (and was a baseball teammate of the late Cal Ripken, Sr.). He returned to his native town to earn a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Bowling Green State University, where he was editor of the B-G News student newspaper his senior year. After graduation, he spent two years as an Army officer in Germany before leaving the service in 1961 to earn his master’s degree in journalism at Syracuse.

Following the year with the AP after grad school, Larry and wife, Margaretha, moved cross-country to Auburn in the Fall of 1964, where he was news editor of  the late John L. Fournier, Sr.’s. weekly Auburn-Globe News. Two years hence, he was hired to open the first suburban bureau of The Seattle Times in Kent and later moved to the main office, where he covered the 1968 Forward Thrust capital-improvement-program election.

The key element in the Forward Thrust program was a $1 billion (cheap by today’s standards) rail-rapid-transit system, which led Larry to cover and became acquainted with the Father of Forward Thrust, Jim Ellis, and then Seattle Mayor Dorm Braman.

His journalistic hat-trick (working consectively for a wire service, a weekly and a daily) ended when Ellis and Braman offered Larry the opportunity to become the first employee of the new Metro transit office, which was established following defeat of the rail-transit measure in 1968. A second defeat came in 1970, when the transit issue was resubmitted to the voters, just as the severe Boeing cutbacks were underway.

He and fellow transit-office staffer—the late Bob Gogerty—were dispatched to Olympia to assist Ellis in lobbying for the sales- and motor-vehicle-excise tax increases that funded the all-bus plan that passed in 1972 and created the Metro Transit system (now King County Metro).

Coffman served as manager of marketing for Metro Transit until 1984, when he left to begin his long entrepreneurial career. In his 16 years with Metro, besides managing the campaign that created Metro Transit, he also managed one to increase the sales tax and another to narrowly defeat Initiative 348 and preserve the state-gas-tax increase that funded the critical completion of I-90 into Seattle.

After spending 1985 as publisher of Travel Washington magazine, the state tourism office fulfillment piece, Larry launched MARKETING newspaper in the Fall of 1986. At the time, the concepts of niche newspapers, as well as having much of the editorial content supplied voluntarily by contributing writers, were uncommon.

In the late ’80s and early ’90s, he helped birth several members of his Niche Newspapers Group, including Communicating, Professional Agenda and Maturing, published by Paul Casey and the most successful and long-lived of the three.

Daughter Melissa decided to go her own entrepreneurial route after wrapping up a 10-year career with Tiger Oak Media, and its flagship Seattle magazine, where she was the group publisher. Her production work has included spending a major portion of her time on MARKETING-related products (i.e, this newspaper,  the  annual ATLAS, the MARKETING Awards and the several websites, including www.marketingnw.com.

For the past five years, Melissa has been co-host of THE EVENT, which is the culmination of the annual MARKETING Awards competition, where all of the winners are announced. And her skill in presenting the awards always draws rave reviews from the attendees. (Which is why she could get away with summarily calling for her Dad to be declared an IMMORTAL by the attendees at this year’s EVENT!)

Larry relishes his role as a contact person and catalyst for the marcomm community that has developed around the MARKETING products over the past three decades. His short-lived and failed efforts at retirement have only been exacerbated by adding the MARCOMM Person of the Year Award, the Awards SHOWCASE and a successor to the ATLAS (to be unveiled this Summer) to the stable of MARKETING products.

Fortunately, Margaretha, now his wife of 54 years, is fully supportive of Larry  playing as much golf as possible.