Getting off a small-town council or cemetery district isn’t as easy as failing to register for election.
When one runs for a position, incumbents often are kept in office by appointment.
“In Waverly, boy, you get on and it’s a lifetime job,” said Waverly Town Councilwoman Kimberly Billington. “We’ve had people that stay there right up until they go into the nursing home.”
She’s one of three councilwomen in Waverly, population 102, who forgot to file at the Spokane County Elections Office.
“It kind of got past all of us,” but forgetting to register for re-election is “no big deal” because few people want the job, Billington said.
“You don’t feel like it’s a top priority because all that happens is that nobody runs and you get appointed again at the next meeting,” she said.
Spangle Town Clerk Peggy Mangis said two council members there also “just forgot” to register in time for the general election.
“It’s such a short filing time,” Mangis said.
She said council members Melissa Holling and Toby Trower plan to correct the oversight during a special three-day filing period that opens Wednesday for positions with no candidates.
Mangis also believes someone will file for the position Bill Whitehall is vacating.
Contested races are rare in Spangle and filling a vacancy can be difficult in a town of 280, but “we usually can find some people to do it,” Mangis said.
This week’s special filing period is for 29 positions on town councils and small school, fire, cemetery, water and sewer districts across the county.
In Latah, population 195, four council positions drew no candidates in the regular filing period June 6-10, but Mayor Teresa Galvin said the situation is not as dire as it appears.
One of the vacancies – created by the resignation of Galvin’s husband, David Galvin – has already been filled by appointment. His replacement, Jimmy Rinehart, and other incumbents are expected to file this week.
“We had kind of a communications faux pas about who had to go up there and sign up,” said Councilman Doug Parks.
A retiree, Parks said he hasn’t decided whether to file this week, in part because he would like younger people with “new ideas” to step forward.
“We want young folks doing it, but they’re working and we want them to be able to do that,” he said.
Recruiting new council members of any age is tough, according to Teresa Galvin and Billington.
“When we have a vacancy coming up,” Billington said, “we start thinking about who would be good at it and kind of calling them and poking them a little and saying, ‘Hey, maybe you’d like to do this,’ and mostly they say no.”
Galvin said Spokane County’s new online filing system will be a boon to farm towns where jobs make it difficult to get to the election office during business hours.
“We’re 45 minutes south of Spokane,” Galvin said. “I think I am the only one (in the town government) who goes to Spokane daily.”
Mangis and Billington agreed online filing will help. Like Galvin, they weren’t aware of that possibility before this year’s regular filing period closed.
Billington said she and Waverly’s other failed-to-file incumbents, Evelyn Heinevetter and Tabitha Gale, have vowed to e-file this week.
“We were all very excited to hear that we could do that this year,” Billington said. “Now that I know I can do it online, no problem.”