Saying he doesn’t want to break up “the best board of county commissioners I ever saw,” Phil Harris announced Wednesday he’d like to serve Spokane County residents for four more years.
“Or more. Who knows?” Harris, 62, told supporters during a news conference at the Ridpath Hotel.
Harris is a former Air Force master sergeant and Boy Scout executive who capitalizes on his folksy mannerisms.
He was elected to the board in 1994. Four years earlier, he lost a close race to incumbent Commissioner Pat Mummey.
His term expires at the end of this year.
Harris took credit for helping curb crime, noting that commissioners have put more sheriff’s deputies on the streets and that he has supported Prosecuting Attorney Jim Sweetser’s requests for more money to handle cases.
Martin Hall, a regional juvenile detention center at Medical Lake, is a cost-effective deterrent to crime, said Harris, who supported construction of the $5 million center over the objections of Commissioner John Roskelley and then-Commissioner Steve Hasson.
The hall fits Harris’ concept of what jail should be, although it falls short of his 1995 call for chain gangs of county inmates.
“There’s no TV sets; there’s no basketball courts. You go to school and learn or you write letters to loved ones … or you sit in your cell,” Harris said. “Kids don’t want to go back.”
Harris also said the county is on far better financial footing than when he took office. One sign is an emergency fund that has grown from about $500,000 to $4.4 million.
He was careful to share the glory with his colleagues, fellow Republican Kate McCaslin and Democrat Roskelley.
Saving money “is easier with the current board … than it was when I first came into office,” he said. “The tax-and-spend mentality has just about gone away.”
Harris predicted the county will be able to cut taxes soon and will have money for “nice-to-have” services rather than just necessities.
Harris predicted it will cost $85,000 to run for office. He has raised $12,000 so far.
He encouraged fellow Republicans to run against him in the September primary, promising a positive campaign. But, he warned, “I intend to win.”
No Democrats or Republicans have announced intentions to challenge Harris. There is wide speculation he will face opposition from Democrat Jim Kolva, who lost a Spokane City Council race against Roberta Greene in 1995.
Kolva could not be reached for comment Wednesday.
, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Photo