Fred Lotze went to the Stevens County Courthouse on Tuesday morning for a job interview and spent the rest of the day reviewing bids and road projects as a county commissioner.
Commissioners Fran Bessermin and J.D. Anderson interviewed three Republican nominees and quickly appointed Lotze to fill the vacancy created by the March 8 death of Commissioner Allan Mack.
Lotze, 62, was the top choice of the county Republican Central Committee.
Retired state Sen. Scott Barr was the party’s second choice, followed by Colville businessman Terry Coleman. Anderson announced in advance he would vote for the party’s top candidate.
Lotze said he will defend his new job at the polls this fall. Colville insurance agent John Hodde, a former county commissioner, also plans to seek the Republican nomination.
A self-employed logger, Lotze lives on a 40-acre farm near Colville. He has served 14 years as a school director and 13 years as a fire commissioner.
Lotze was born in Colville and grew up in the Onion Creek area, near the Canadian border. He graduated from Northport High School in 1953 and still has dinner several times a year with many of the 16 other members of his class.
Superior Court Judge Fred Stewart, a longtime friend, administered Lotze’s oath of office in a hastily arranged ceremony.
Lotze’s appointment was a victory for mainstream Republicans in the county, who are struggling to maintain control of the party. Insiders say the party’s radical right wing - which includes members of several religious groups as well as militia sympathizers - are within a few votes of a majority on the central committee.
Mack’s death alarmed mainstream party members, who suddenly faced the prospect of the three-member county commission being controlled by radicals. Anderson is an ultra-conservative who subscribes to numerous anti-government, constitutionalist views.
Lotze said he wants to keep taxes and spending down. Efficiency in the county Road Department is a priority for him. Lotze said he wants to make sure the department is able to replace worn-out bridges “instead of just slapping load limitations on them.”
But Lotze said he has no preconceived agenda.
“I have no ax to grind,” he said.
As for militant confrontations with the state or federal governments, “I doubt that will come up with me as a county commissioner.”
One of those who attended Lotze’s swearing-in ceremony was Colville Mayor Duane Scott.
“I think the county is doggone fortunate that Fred was willing to put himself in the position of a commissioner,” Scott said. “He’s been a businessman all his life, and he’s been successful at it. That’s important.”
Lotze and his wife, Cena, have three adult daughters and four grandchildren.