Airway Heights Mayor Don Harmon likes to point to his hard work in office as a reason for the economic expansion of this small city west of Spokane.
His opponent, Brian Grady, said the successes are hardly the mayor’s accomplishments alone.
Grady has been on the city council for seven years now and wants to take Harmon’s job away from him.
Grady said the council’s work has as much to do with the vitality of Airway Heights as anything.
The rosy prospects for this city of 4,150 people are making life easier for politicians. They have the luxury of sharing credit for new jobs, increased tax money and public improvements in recent years.
Voters will get to choose between Harmon, a 51-year-old retired Teamster, and Grady, a 38-year-old construction company owner, on Nov. 4.
“The bottom line is I’ve done a lot of good in this city and I’d like to continue doing that,” Harmon said.
Grady said he’s equally as concerned for the community. “I’m dedicated to this city,” he said.
Both men moved to Airway Heights in the mid-1980s. Harmon is from Alaska. Grady came from Montana.
Harmon is finishing his first term as mayor. Previously, he served one term on the City Council and was a member of the planning commission.
Harmon said he’s developed a long string of connections and appointments as mayor.
He currently serves on Spokane Regional Transportation Council, the regional health board, Spokane transit board, county community development board and the growth management steering committee.
That experience is helping him coordinate projects such as highway improvements and sewer installations, he said.
Grady’s company has landed numerous government contracts, mainly for highway construction. He said his experience working with those contracts will be an advantage to Airway Heights residents because he is familiar with the laws and can do a good job overseeing public works projects.
Grady said his business experience will also help provide a common-sense approach to government.
Both candidates like to point to improvements on U.S. Highway 2 as an example of the changing face of Airway Heights. The project included new sidewalks, lighting and a paved median strip. Also, a stoplight was installed to slow traffic.
The new prison in Airway Heights brought 590 jobs and added some 1,900 inmates to the city’s population.
Now, the city is courting the Kalispel tribe for a new $17 million casino, which has been controversial among residents.
Harmon is an unabashed supporter of the casino, saying it will bring more economic growth. “That’s a prize,” Harmon said.
Grady said he believes the casino is the kind of issue that ought to be put to a vote of the residents.
Employers are expanding payrolls, especially in the growth-stimulating industrial base of the economy.
Developers are buying up land for new homes and making plans for retail businesses. One of the region’s largest home builders is putting up hundreds of affordable homes and apartments.
Harmon and Grady said they both worked to improve the city’s zoning code to make sure the development is not shoddy. The city now requires wider streets, larger lots, sidewalks, building set-backs and paved parking.
It is planning to install sewers and improve its water system.
There are few political punches being thrown between the two.
Harmon said Grady was slow to throw his support behind the improvements of U.S. 2, but that’s about as far as his criticism goes.
Grady said, “I’m running a positive campaign.”