The 16,000-plus college students in this town are living proof that power doesn’t necessarily come in numbers.
Washington State University students easily make up a majority of the town’s 24,000 residents, but they hardly ever show their faces at local polls, almost never as local pols.
That changed a little with the unopposed 1993 election of Newton Brown, only the second full-time student ever on the Pullman City Council, followed by the appointments of Matt Caires and his appointed replacement, Alison McLeod.
It could change a lot this year. Four of the six City Council candidates are students.
No one is talking about a sweep, which would give students a near majority on the seven-member panel. Indeed, the candidates, vying for three positions, are for the most part talking as if they were all running on some sort of town-gown unity platform.
“One of the main reasons I’m running is there shouldn’t be that divide,” said Ed Prince, 22, whose remarks are typical of the field. “I want to work on creating a real sense of community in Pullman.”
Prince, the WSU student association’s budget director and a senior studying political science, is one of two students squaring off against each other in the race for Ward 2’s second position.
His opponent, Alison McLeod, said she is particularly qualified to bridge the gap between WSU and the city, having been raised here “for a lot of my formative years.”
“There needs to be more communication on certain issues,” said McLeod, a 24-year-old graduate student in higher education administration. “The alcohol policy and the noise policy in the city are two things that are changing simultaneously and are affecting each other.”
McLeod was appointed in early June to replace Caires.
Ward 1 incumbent Floyd Larson is in his third term and seventh year on the council. Representing students comes with the territory, he said.
“You represent the best interests of the community as a whole, and it’s bound to have an impact on students,” said Larson, 72, a former Pullman Herald reporter and editor.
He has a low-tech proposal to improve communication in town: better sidewalks.
When you can’t get around the block, he said, “it doesn’t encourage us to get out in the neighborhoods and get to know these people. There’s a tendency to hole up and isolate oneself instead of talking across the backyard fence.”
Larson’s opponent is Micki Archuleta, a doctoral candidate in American Studies and president of the Graduate and Professional Students Association. She wants to bring different groups together and hire a consultant to study ways to encourage “progressive development” in town.
“One thing that has always bothered me since I’ve lived in Pullman is I’ve heard it’s a nice place to raise kids, it’s a nice place to retire,” said Archuleta, 35. “But I’ve never heard it’s a nice place to live and work.”
Sue Hinz, appointed to the council last winter to replace Joan Honican, said she wants to ensure the town has affordable and family housing. She said she would also like to see a river park developed between the Neill Public Library and Reaney Park.
The assistant director of WSU’s News and Information Services, Hinz, 49, has worked for WSU for 25 years.
“I’ve seen WSU from all kinds of angles,” Hinz said. “I’ve seen Pullman, more importantly, from all kinds of angles. Through each evolution I’ve found Pullman a more important part of me.”
Hinz’s challenger for the Ward 2, Position 1 seat is Travis Beard, a 21-year-old political science major who hopes to improve communication between the two communities on problems such as College Hill noise.
“I’ve noticed that there’s a rift between what the students think of as their university community and their Pullman community with a capital C,” he said.
In addition to Pullman’s council races, Whitman County features a half-dozen contests for mayor:
In Endicott, incumbent Randall Schmick is running against Larry Gene Persons.
Greg Partch is moving to unseat Garfield Mayor Cheryle Curtis.
In LaCrosse, Don Dorman and Dallas Filan are running for the seat being vacated by Wallace Roberts.
Malden Mayor Gary VanDyke is facing a challenge from Ray Deonier.
Rosalia’s incumbent, Don Baird, is running against Dennis Peters.
And in Uniontown, John Jacobs is bidding to take the job from Peter Holland.