Stevens County Voters Face Some Interesting Decisions
Kettle Falls voters, in addition to choosing a new mayor, must decide Tuesday whether to fill a council position with a woman they voted out of office or with an enigmatic friend of far-right Stevens County Commissioner J.D. Anderson.
In Springdale, residents must choose a mayor from two familiar councilmen who represent opposite sides in the town’s sharply divided politics.
There are other contested council races in those cities and in Chewelah, where attention is focused on a pair of mayoral candidates who ousted incumbent Gloria Davidson in a three-way primary. Local newspaper columnist Lew Arnold has a six-vote primary edge over Ron McCoy, who is a manager at the Chewelah Safeway.
Elsewhere in Stevens County, voters will be asked to approve operating levies for the Loon Lake and Columbia school districts.
The Loon Lake School District proposes a two-year, $100,000-a-year property tax levy that would cost an estimated 81.7 cents per $1,000 of assessed value. The Columbia School District, based in Hunters, wants a $70,000-a-year levy for two years that would cost an estimated $1.52 per $1,000 of assessed value.
Springdale Mayor Ernie Gehrke is stepping down and will be succeeded either by one of his allies on the Town Council, Floyd Pope, or a persistent critic, Councilman Dan Hite.
Hite, 64, declined to comment. He has been on the Town Council, on and off, for many of the 22 years he has lived in Springdale and is the retired operator of a septic-tank pumping business.
Public records show he got a suspended sentence in 1991 when he was convicted in Stevens County District Court of illegally emptying his septic truck along a road, near a creek, and then falsifying records related to the action.
The county health district also suspended his septic pumping license for two years.
Pope, 65, has served about eight years on the council with a gap caused by an unsuccessful run for mayor four years ago. Voters put him back on the council two years ago.
He has lived in Springdale for 12 years and operates the town’s only grocery store.
One of three contested council races in Kettle Falls pits J.D. Anderson’s biggest campaign contributor, Angus Williams, with local food bank director Hazel Bruneau. Bruneau was voted off the council in 1989 and, after being appointed to a vacancy, was voted out again in 1993.
Williams, 45, could not be reached for comment.
Several public officials, civic activists and other candidates said they know almost nothing of Williams’ background. Some were wary of saying anything because of his association with Anderson, who has openly supported the militia movement.
Public records show Williams was by far the largest contributor to Anderson’s 1994 commission race. Williams gave $500 in cash and $284 in sign materials and labor. Williams also placed large newspaper ads attacking Anderson’s opponent, incumbent Tom McKern.
School records show Williams attended Central Washington University and the University of Idaho from fall 1978 through spring 1983 without earning a degree.
Williams listed that and other information about himself in a resume he submitted in February 1996 while seeking appointment to the Kettle Falls council position that went to Linda Lewis, who is now running for mayor.
Williams operates a real estate investment business in Colville that specializes in foreclosed properties.
A county resident for 16 years, Williams’ resume indicates he has lived in Kettle Falls about six years. He said he grew up on a farm in Kittitas County and is single.
Williams serves on the county’s Federal Lands Advisory Committee and the Planning Commission, for which Anderson nominated him. In April, Williams also was appointed to the Kettle Falls Planning Commission.
County Planning Director Loren Wiltse said Williams “follows the criteria and goes by the book” on the county Planning Commission.
Bruneau, 58, has lived in Kettle Falls for 15 years and has run the Community Chest food bank for 13 years. A graduate of Elma (Wash.) High School, she and her husband, Albert, have six adult children.
Bruneau and Williams are running for the council position Linda Lewis is giving up in a bid to unseat Mayor Jerry Davis.
Lewis, 45, served 7-1/2 years on the council in the 1980s and survived a five-way mayoral primary two years ago before losing to Davis in the general election. A lifelong Kettle Falls resident, she worked 18 years for Safeway in Colville and now manages the Gold Hill Senior Apartments. She also is president of the Kettle Falls Chamber of Commerce.
Lewis is single and has an adult son and a daughter in college.
She accuses Davis of treating people badly at council meetings. Davis said council members got used to meddling in mayoral duties during the frequent absences of his predecessor, who resigned in midterm, but those conflicts have been resolved.
Davis, 65, served eight years on the council before becoming mayor. He said he wants to complete work on a new municipal water reservoir and upgrade the town’s volunteer ambulance service from 12 to 24 hours a day.
A retired building contractor, Davis has lived in Kettle Falls almost continuously since 1959. He and his wife, Judy, have four adult children.
In other Kettle Falls races, political newcomers Marcia Dilley and Brian Henderson are challenging incumbent council members Steven B. West and Bev Edwards.
West, 49, has been on the council eight years and was eliminated in the mayoral primary two years ago. He has lived in the community 17 years and is a millwright at the nearby Boise Cascade plywood plant. He and his wife, Emma, have three teenage children.
His opponent, Dilley, came to Kettle Falls five years ago from Spokane. She is 45 and has been a homemaker most of her life, but also has worked as a nurse’s aide. Dilley and her husband, Mark, have two adult sons and now are caring for a niece.
Edwards, 53, was appointed to a council vacancy in March. She has lived in Kettle Falls 17 years and is retired from 20 years as a state Child Protective Services worker in Colville. Edwards and her husband, Larmie, have two adult children.
Her challenger, Henderson, has lived in Kettle Falls for three years and in the area for 36 years. He is a forklift operator for the Boise Cascade sawmill in Kettle Falls, where he has worked for 18 years. Henderson and his wife, Jackie, have four children ranging in age from 9 to 13.
In Chewelah, Planning Commission member Gene DuCharme is seeking the council position to which Chalmer Jones was recently appointed.
Jones, 73, was vice chairman of the Planning Commission before joining the council. He moved to Chewelah six years ago from Spokane and previously lived in California, where he was a manager and later owner of computer technology companies. Jones is single with three sons, and said he came to Spokane to be a consultant because of deteriorating schools in California.
DuCharme, 46, came to Chewelah three years ago from Puyallup. He operates an auto repair shop called Gene’s Highway 395. He has managed auto shops most of his life. DuCharme and his wife, Vicki, have four sons, ranging in age from 17 to 25.