Spokane County Commissioner John Roskelley announced Wednesday he will seek re-election, a move sure to delight environmentalists and rankle developers.
The mountain climber and free-lance writer made his first foray into politics last year and was elected in November to fill the final year of Commissioner Skip Chilberg’s term.
Lawyer George Marlton had been appointed to fill the job for several months but lost to Roskelley in last fall’s primary.
Now, Roskelley wants four more years in the $57,000-a-year job.
“It’s a great job,” he said. “Time consuming but great. I can’t imagine a better job for learning political science in such a quick study.”
A passionate defender of the land, Roskelley targeted three issues after taking office.
He wanted to beef up the money-poor parks system by raising greens fees at the county’s three courses; limit the agricultural practice of burning bluegrass fields because it harmed people with breathing ailments; and rein in what he considered to be runaway growth.
“We seem a little backward on our environmental leanings,” he said Wednesday at a low-key news conference at the Ridpath Hotel. Golf fees were raised a buck a round, not to help the parks system but to pay for course improvements.
The state Department of Ecology stepped in to stop grass field burning by 1998. Roskelley wanted more of a compromise. But with the other commissioners’ support, the county has taken recent steps to ensure more consistent and legally defensible land-use decisions.
Roskelley also said that for the first time in many years, all three commissioners are pulling together for a common goal - fiscal responsibility.
The 47-year-old Spokane native is the lone Democrat to announce so far for the District 1 seat on the commission.
Political newcomer Lila Howe, a strident supporter of smaller government and fewer regulations, is the only Republican to file so far. Efforts to reach Howe for a response to Roskelley’s announcement were unsuccessful.
Political science professors Robert Herold of Eastern Washington University and Blaine Garvin of Gonzaga University said Roskelley has seized upon several controversial and important issues. And he’s done it, they said, without alienating his commission colleagues, Phil Harris and Steve Hasson.
“I’m a golfer and I’m not real pleased with the greens fees going up, but it’s a reasonable issue,” said Herold, who has monitored local government for 27 years.
“Frankly, I find Roskelley to be a breath of fresh air given the petty bickering that has gone on in other quarters of the commission,” Herold said. “He has refocused attention away from style and personalities and more toward something concrete, and in our county that’s rather novel.
Spokane real estate agent Greg Blessing said Roskelley is “well intentioned” but “not openminded enough about the economic consequences of growth management” and other land-use regulations.
But Roskelley counters that he can balance prosperity and still safeguard quality of life.