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Community Godfather – Reviews

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Author C. Mark Smith received the Washington State Historical Society’s John M. McClelland Jr. Award for the best article published in COLUMBIA in 2010…

Columbia Magazine Review, Spring, 2015

Columbia Magazine Review, Spring, 2015

The Entertainer Review (.pdf) –  Biography of ‘community godfather’ is also important history of Tri-Cities

Jack Briggs’ Tri-City Herald Review (.pdf) – Tri-City Forum: Book tells rest of Sam Volpentest’s story

I had a hard time putting it down. It should be a great read for past and current Tri-City business and government leaders, and a must for those [who] aspire.  We know that many communities can point to someone  (maybe not quite like Sam) that shaped their future. This is a great case study for those not quite as fortunate.

Carl Adrian, CEO
Tri-Cities Economic Development Council (TRIDEC)

C. Mark Smith’s thoroughly researched book on Sam Volpentest does more than document how one pint-sized giant of a man with strong determination and powerful political connections could almost single-handedly prevent a large portion of Eastern Washington state from sliding into economic depression.

It deals with the politics and ethnicity of early twentieth-century Seattle, where Volpentest grew up.

It documents with clarity the challenges faced by the Tri-City area in the early 1960s when the area’s economic lifeline of producing plutonium first to help with World War ll and then the Cold War was severed by the closure of the area’s nuclear reactors.

For the first time it documents the behind-the-scenes political maneuvering that used statewide connections and community togetherness to prevent what many feared – namely that the community would dry up and blow away.

Smith has written a damn interesting book and done a first-rate investigative job. It will surprise even those who thought they knew what was going on as the Tri-Cities fought for life – a life and a future it owes in great part to Sam Volpentest, who died in 2005 at the age of 101.

Jack Briggs
Retired publisher, Tri-City Herald

Community Godfather is the story of how one man, with fierce determination, boundless energy, and cultivated political connections shaped the future of a community.


While many of us knew Sam, very few know the whole story of how he moved to the Tri-Cities and overcame tremendous obstacles to become a giant in community development and economic growth. It was very revealing to read how Sam viewed interactions we had, and enlightening to gain the perspective of time and other participants.


Smith has done a great service for all of us transplants to the Tri-Cities.

Mike Lawrence
Former DOE manager and Signatory to the Tri-Party Agreement

Mark Smith has done an amazing job of weaving a factual and fascinating way through the life and times of Sam Volpentest.  Sam was unique, and Mark paints that picture in full color.  The people around Sam are a complex history, and the multi-faceted world in which he lived and operated gave Mark Smith the challenge of tying it all together.  He does it very well, with humor, and accuracy.


This book, like Sam Volpentest himself, is a vital part of northwest history.”

Hon. Sid Morrison
Former Member of Congress

This is an exceptional book:  exceptionally well written, exceptionally readable, and one that provides an exceptionally insightful picture of an exceptional yet quite ordinary small town American mover and shaker whose extraordinary accomplishments built his community and region.


It reads like a novel but tells a fascinating, yet completely true story that will hold your attention on many levels and be hard to put down.

Ron L. Kathren
Retired Director, USTUR and
Professor Emeritus, WSU Tri-Cities

For most, Sam Volpentest was just a name—one of those lofty figures operating in the realm of community “movers and shakers.”  Yet for those of us who were fortunate enough to work with Sam, he was far more than that.


C. Mark Smith has brought Sam to life, for all to know.  His book is not just about the man or even his community.  It is about the times, and Smith’s book shows how the latter shapes the former.


How did Sam rise to power and influence?  What stories about Sam are fact and which are myth?  What role does did circumstance and context play in Sam’s many accomplishments?


The answers are all in this remarkable book about the “Miracle in the Desert,” and the man who guided it every step of the way.

Mike Schwenk
Former TRIDEC colleague

Mark Smith has written a tremendous book about Sam Volpentest, Hanford, and the Tri-Cities. I urge each of you to go out and buy a copy!”

Hon. Norm Dicks
Former Member of Congress

I love this book.  It explains how a very poor boy from Seattle could come to Richland, Washington that bordered the Hanford Site which contained  eight active nuclear reactors and become the Tri-Cities Godfather.  Sam Volpentest was instrumental in supporting new projects to replace the closed reactors and obtaining funding for these projects through his connections with Senators in Washington DC and Presidents of the United States. A great read.

Bob Larson
Director of Procurement and contracting officer, Department of Energy, Richland Operations Office. Retired.