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Valley council race gets new face

With a month left before ballots are dropped into voters’ mailboxes, a new challenger has placed his bid for a seat on the Spokane Valley City Council.

Tom Towey launched the city’s first write-in campaign against Councilman Steve Taylor for his Position 2 seat last week. As a rule, write-in campaigns are a long shot, but the Ponderosa neighborhood resident said he’s been quickly drawing support from community leaders in Greenacres, Central Valley and other segments of the city.

“I really think that we can change the dynamics of the City Council,” said Towey.

Much of his campaign will focus on the future of development in Spokane Valley.

The sitting council has debated new regulations on building for months. And at public hearings, Taylor has taken heat from some residents for his support of higher densities in some parts of the city, as well as his employment as the government affairs director for the Spokane Homebuilders Association and the Spokane Association of Realtors.

“We have some special interests on the council right now, and I think it’s about time that the neighborhoods are represented,” Towey said.

With almost five years on the council, Taylor expressed his intention to seek his seat again last spring and has run unopposed until now.

As in his successful bid to keep his seat two years ago, Taylor said his campaign will focus on continuing the city’s success.

“I just think a lot of good has happened from the leadership that the entire council has shown, and I’m just glad to be a part of that,” he said.

He cited Spokane Valley’s forming plans for a city center, new land-use rules, a strategy to preserve city streets and a balanced budget as examples.

On development, Taylor said the council considers everybody’s input. Elected leaders then decide how best to accommodate growth within the constraints of state law and mindful of property rights and the land available for development.

“Those leaders can take more of a bird’s-eye view and look at things in terms of the public interest,” he said.

With the exception of hearing examiner decision appeals, Taylor and others on the council don’t influence decisions on individual projects.

When it comes to the council’s broader policies on growth, Taylor has said he is careful to avoid conflicts of interest defined in state law, and that his employment has helped the city improve its permitting processes and promote a better dialogue between builders and the city.

Towey said he’d like to change the environment of “us against them” he sees between developers and neighborhoods

“Development is coming – and it has to – but we need to work with the communities instead of against the communities,” he said.

Echoing the testimony from neighbors in Ponderosa and Greenacres who have argued for larger lots in established parts of the city, Towey said, “I think that we should start protecting our neighborhoods.”

Towey is a lifelong Valley resident and a graduate of West Valley High School with a business management certificate from Spokane Falls Community College. He retired after 32 years with Rosauers supermarkets, where he managed four stores. Towey, 64, has volunteered in various capacities with the Sheriff’s Office for 11 years. He is an avid runner, with his 39th marathon scheduled a week from Saturday.

Towey is married with two adult children and three grandchildren.

Raised in Florida, Taylor, 31, served in the Air Force from 1994 to 1998. He has also worked for George Nethercutt when the Spokane Republican was a congressman and for Hunt Mountain Resources.

Taylor studied finance and economics at Eastern Washington University and recently completed his master’s of public administration, as well as leadership programs through the Association of Washington Cities and the National League of Cities.

Taylor and his wife recently had their first child, a boy.