December 31, 2009 in Washington Voices

New mayor says economy is priority

Budget crunch poses key challenge
Mike Boyle

When the Airway Heights City Council convenes for its first meeting of 2010 on Monday, it will do so with a new mayor.

After initial results that were too close to call, Patrick Rushing edged incumbent Matthew Pederson by just two votes in a recount that wasn’t decided until nearly a month after the November ballots were cast.

“If you talk to anyone who doesn’t think their vote doesn’t count, they can come talk to me,” Rushing said.

Rushing, who recently retired from the Postal Service, has served on the City Council since 1999 and said his first priority is to foster a stronger economy for Airway Heights.

“One of the biggest things is economic growth,” Rushing said. “One of my major visions is bringing business growth along (U.S.) Highway 2. A lot of that is going to be making sure the city of Airway Heights and the city of Spokane work closely together to not only help with the growth in Airway Heights, but with the annexation of the West Plains, we have to help the city of Spokane in order for us to grow along the Highway 2 corridor.”

Rushing also said he hopes the recent annexation of land from Spokane County will help in the economic growth of the city.

“We’re only getting a half a mile of that land, the rest of it is going to the city of Spokane,” said Rushing. “The growth of that land has already started. You’ve got Wal-Mart and some box stores. To extend that commercial growth along Highway 2, along with the apartment and residential growth in the same area is going to be challenging because of some of the restrictions that we’re facing, not only with Fairchild (Air Force Base), but with Spokane International Airport. In order to take that land and make it prosperous, it’s going to be working with the city of Spokane to build their business growth along Highway 2 in order to make it attractive to people to come and do their business in Airway Heights.”

While his focus will be on economic growth, Rushing knows that financial issues hitting the national economy will be a concern in Airway Heights.

“When you’ve had the economic downturn which this country has had, the budget is absolutely the biggest challenge because in order to move forward, it’s going to cost money,” Rushing said. “In order to get people to support any additional funding, it is going to be a challenge to bring that to paper so the people can see what your long-term goals are.”

Rushing succeeds Pederson, who leaves the council after eight years, the last four as mayor. Pederson, who is director of the West Plains Chamber of Commerce, said he is looking forward to Rushing continuing the changes Pederson sought in the local economic landscape.

“We accomplished a tremendous amount of growth and brought new businesses and services on line,” said Peterson. “Being able to set the next four years up, knowing what the challenges are going to be and letting them know what the projects are going to be, is really a part of good planning.”

“What I’m really most proud of is to be able to come in and represent the city and establish the relationships that have led to the success of our city,” continued Pederson. “In the past, the city was not engaged outside of its corporate limits. We could never garner any attention or respect from county, state and federal government, and we’ve changed that. … I think as an individual, that’s what I’ve brought to the table the most is a collaborative standpoint that’s been able to put people and projects together that have helped benefit the city.”

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