Airway Heights has nine candidates battling over two City Council positions in the Sept. 19 primary.
Every one of them says the city’s future depends on rediscovering small-town values while paying the piper of progress.
Each candidate agrees the small city on the west edge of Spokane is at a critical stage: It will grow, but can it preserve its quality of life without major tax increases?
The two top vote-getters in the two races move on to the November election.
Council Position 1
Paul Tudich: A retired Air Force maintenance worker, Tudich, 62, served on the Airway Heights council from 1987 to 1991. He wants to return to the council to help bring citizens and city officials in closer touch.
“City administrators are too lax,” said Tudich, adding “they are busy doing their own thing and don’t want to listen to input from the local people.”
Mark Schumacher: The 43-year-old Schumacher also is a retired Air Force serviceman. He’s chairman of a citizens committee pushing an Airway Heights sewer construction bond, to be voted on in November.
He’s convinced the city is “at a crossroads” and its future depends on building better roads, improving water and sewer services and replacing the volunteer fire department with full-time staff.
Gloria E. Updike: The 41-year-old Updike is a member of the Airway Heights Planning Commission. She’s a secretary with the Air Force Survival School.
Updike contends the City Council needs new blood plus the guidance of people like her who have worked with county and state planning guidelines.
Florence Booher: A 59-year-old housewife and mother of five grown children, Booher is the lone write-in candidate in Airway Heights.
She said she’s trying to help people “who are not well-represented now.”
Booher said residents south of Highway 2 get the short end of the council’s stick in terms of services and response.
That side of town, she said, needs road surfacing and weed removal.
“The council mostly ignores those people, and I don’t think that’s right,” she said.
Brian Grady: The council incumbent, Grady, 36, is looking for another four-year term on the five-person council.
He said he offers common sense and a business background at a time when the city’s growth will encourage increases in city spending.
“We need to watch how we spend our money,” he said.
He owns a construction company and said that background can help lure new businesses into Airway Heights.
Council Position 2
Leonard Bernsdorf: A 46-year-old metal shop maintenance man, Bernsdorf intends to fix what he calls a major “communication gap” between city officials and most residents.
Part of that gap separates those on either side of Highway 2. The other part is between city leaders and the “average person,” he said.
He intends to bring more activities to town for Airway Heights teens. “They really don’t have any place of their own to go,” said Bernsdorf.
Elizabeth Brush: The 43-year-old single mother is making her first stab at local politics.
A volunteer at the Airway Heights community center, she advocates building a park on the south side of the city and agreed that teens in the community need more things to do.
She is a strong advocate of maintaining the city’s small-town atmosphere and quality of life.
“To do that, we have to keep track of money spent,” she said. The need for better services is crucial, but “we have to watch where the money is going.”
Margarite Cassidenti: A 68-year-old former nun, Cassidenti is also making her first run at political office.
“My strength is my sense of social aspects of living here,” she said. “People here know me, and they know I will disagree with them but I will do it with a sense of courtesy and respect,” she said.
She said she’s watched or attended Airway Heights Council meetings for most of the past 17 years. “I think the council is doing a wonderful job, but I felt this is my time to step forward.”
Gail Combs: Combs, 42, worked for more than a dozen years for the city, first as a utilities department clerk, then as city clerk and treasurer.
This also is her first run at an elected city office.
She is an account manager with Zak Designs, a Spokane merchandising firm.
Two of her goals are helping citizens communicate with city officials better, and getting city leaders to network with other area city and county government agencies.
“We should be working with other communities, talking with them and asking them, ‘What do you think of this idea?”’ she said.
Position 2 incumbent Marc Tareski is not running for re-election.