Board of Trustees

Our Board

Executive Director Tracy Simmons: Tracy Simmons is an award winning journalist specializing in religion reporting, digital entrepreneurship and social journalism. In her 13 years on the religion beat, Simmons has tucked a notepad in her pocket and found some of her favorite stories aboard cargo ships in New Jersey, on a police chase in Albuquerque, in dusty Texas church bell towers, on the streets of New York and in tent cities in Haiti.

Simmons has worked as a multimedia journalist for newspapers across New Mexico, Texas and Connecticut. Currently is a Scholarly Assistant Professor at Washington State University and serves as the executive director of SpokaneFAVS.com, a digital journalism start-up covering religion news and commentary in Spokane, Wash. She also writes nationally and is a reporter and columnist for the Spokesman-Review.

You can reach Simmons at tracysimmons@spokanefavs.com.

Riff Mattre

Board President Riff Mattré: Employed more than 20 years behind the scenes at The Spokesman-Review, Mattré currently serves as its commercial print division’s Manufacturing Manager. In 2018, he completed his first bachelor’s degree in Integrated Social Sciences through the University of Washington, Seattle. A champion of investigative journalism, Mattré believes exploring difference is the key to strengthening commonality. It was in his 20s Mattré set out upon his own quest for answers regarding faith and values. His adventures eventually landed him at a Buddhist monastery in Southern France where he decided Jesus and Siddhartha would have been great friends. Mattré is convinced our greater society’s future sustainability hinges upon easing gaps between siloed and artificially polarized beliefs. Helping us each appreciate truths of one path as often reflected in aspects of another is Riff’s highest pursuit. Since 2013 he has continuously imagined and supported FāVS becoming the conduit of such exploration for our youth of both today and tomorrow.

Contact Riff at: spokanefavs.riff@gmail.com

Mari Haworth

Board Treasurer Mari Haworth: Mari Haworth is a retired researcher whose love of research began at age 3, with a brand new set of the Encyclopedia Britannica. She was raised Lutheran and is currently studying Jodo Shinshu Buddhism at the Spokane Buddhist Temple, an all-volunteer temple. Mari is the past treasurer of the Temple, and currently serves on their Religious Education Committee, is the publicity and social media volunteer, newsletter editor, and fundraising committee co-chair.  She volunteers on the Board of the Spokane Chapter of the Japanese American Citizens League (JACL) and publishes their newsletter. She is grateful for being a mother and grandmother, playing taiko drums with Spokane Taiko, and for the laughs and tunes with her karaoke family.

Contact Mari at: spokanefavs.mari@gmail.com

Rich Arnold

At-Large Member Rich Arnold:

Rich Arnold was born in beautiful British Columbia and, after a meandering road took him through the Canadian prairies to eastern Canada (with many stops along the way), he eventually wandered south of the 49th parallel and into Pennsylvania. He married one of the locals and moved to Cleveland, Ohio, where they resided for about 13 years and had two children. They moved to Spokane in 2016 to be closer to his family. He currently works as a data scientist for a healthcare tech and service company. Rich’s interests are varied and many. In addition to programming, math, and data, he enjoys hiking around state and national parks with his wife, kids, and dog, as well as playing and listening to music of all types, reading books of all kinds, and getting to know people of all colors, shapes, sizes, backgrounds, and beliefs. He became a member of FāVS on account of his belief that our stories – both our personal and our religious ones – are a tremendously integral part of who we are as humans, and that it is important for us to afford each other the opportunity to tell them. Rich has found that listening to these stories, unique and varied and yet not without their common threads, has enriched his life and helped him develop a deeper appreciation for his fellow homo sapiens. He looks forward to hearing your story.

Contact Rich at: spokanefavs.richard@gmail.com

At-Large Member Steven Smith:

Steven A. Smith is clinical associate professor emeritus in the School of Journalism and Mass Media at the University of Idaho having retired from full time teaching at the end of May 2020. Smith is former editor of The Spokesman-Review in Spokane, Washington. As editor, Smith supervised all news and editorial operations on all platforms with a staff ranging from more than 140 in 2002 to 104 at the time of his resignation in October 2008. Prior to joining The Spokesman-Review, Smith was editor for two years at The Statesman Journal, a Gannett newspaper in Salem, Oregon, and was for five years editor and vice president of The Gazette, a Freedom Communications newspaper in Colorado Springs, Colorado. He is a graduate of the Northwestern University Newspaper Management Center Advanced Executive Program and a mid-career development program at Duke University. He holds an MA in communication from The Ohio State University where he was a Kiplinger Fellow, and a BS in journalism from the University of Oregon.

Contact Steven at: spokanefavs.steven@gmail.com

At-Large Member Ben Backstrom:

Ben Backstrom


Ben Backstrom grew up north of Seattle in a non-denominational Christian church. After graduating high school, he attended Western Washington University in Bellingham, Washington, pursuing a Bachelor’s of Science in Biology with a minor in Liberal Studies. Through this minor he had the privilege of taking several courses in religious study and history. After graduating, he moved to Spokane and started working for a software development company that provides digital Bible study tools to consumers. He recently completed a second bachelor’s degree in Computer Science. Ben is interested in the intersection between belief and technology. He is also interested in finding ways to promote religious tolerance in communities of diverse beliefs.

Contact Ben at: spokanefavs.ben@gmail.com

At-Large Member Julie Banks:

Julie Banks

After a varied career, Julie found her calling in non-profit and worked as a community development director for 15 years before retiring. A Spokane native, she was raised in the Christian (Disciples of Christ) church, giving her the foundation of faith as life’s journey. Currently, her journey includes studying non-violent communication, promoting empathy for another’s perspective before reacting out of emotion. The practice mindfully puts the Golden Rule into action. Becoming a board member of SpokaneFāVS fits with her belief that making Spokane a better place for us all requires building bridges to those whose voices have not been heard. She lives with her husband, three cats and one dog.  

Contact Julie at: spokanefavs.julie@gmail.com

At-Large Member Jody Cramsie:

Jody Cramsie has a background in history, theology, ethics and law. In her free, time she enjoys music, reading and hosting dinner parties for family and friends. She lives in Spokane but prefers to be on the Olympic Peninsula or in the south of France.
Contact Jody at: spokanefavs.jody@gmail.com


Mission Statement

SpokaneFāVS informs and builds faith and non-faith community through digital journalism and online and offline engagement opportunities.

Values Statement

SpokaneFāVS believes in building community and in bridging divisions through independent, transparent journalism and commentary, and engagement that emphasizes inclusion, acceptance, understanding, and respect. We give voice to the widest range of belief traditions with a particular interest in those whose voices have been muted or ignored. We strive to be politically neutral but recognize the intersection of ethics and values in any discussion of religion, politics, and ideological diversity. We demonstrate a wide-ranging worldview but remain deeply rooted in our home, which is the Inland Northwest.

Vision Statement

SpokaneFāVS will be the primary place to articulate faith and nonfaith practices in the Inland Northwest in which divisions are healed and communities connected.


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