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Five selected for council interviews

The Spokane Valley City Council voted to interview five candidates for the council position vacated by the resignation of Rose Dempsey. Here is more information on the candidates.

John R. Baldwin

Age: 74

Occupation: retired

Experience: Former security officer, night manager at Rosauers and served in U.S. Air Force.

Volunteer work: Has been heavily involved in University SCOPE since 2001.

Previous public involvement: He ran for Spokane Valley City Council in 2002.

Details: He would like to encourage businesses to locate in the Sprague Avenue corridor by lowering taxes and offering other incentives. “At this point in time I don’t believe we should have a tax increase because of the economy,” he said.

Street preservation: The city must find funding for street maintenance. If new taxes are to be created, the people should be able to vote on that. “The roads aren’t bad now, but we’re going to end up like the city of Spokane where it’s pothole heaven,” he said. “Eventually it’s going to happen.”

Steven C. Neill

Age: 47

Occupation: distribution specialist, Office Max

Experience: He worked in various positions for Olsten Staffing and Hollister Stier. Previously worked for Kaiser Aluminum for 12 years.

Volunteer work: Former chairman of the Spokane County Republic Platform Committee.

Previous public involvement: applied for a planning commission seat in 2010

Details: He believes the city is not business friendly enough and would like to change the sign code. “We need to be willing to work with the businesses to get things done so they can prosper,” he said. “What I want to be is an advocate for the businesses. I can’t promise the impossible, nor am I willing to sell out the city for business, but ultimately it is business that will get us out of the economic downturn that we’re in.”

He also favors doing online polls to get input on how residents think about certain issues.

Street preservation: He said the city needs to cut its budget further to find money for street projects. “I think they need to evaluate all expenses that the city has and determine what can be cut, what is truly mandated by law.” He has not yet identified which areas he believes should be cut. “To be honest, I have not looked into the budget enough to give you specifics. That is one thing I have to get up to speed on.”

He favors putting any new taxes to pay for street projects to a public vote. “There has to be an understanding that if you want this, it’s going to cost you this, and this is how we will pay for it,” he said. “We’re not the federal government. We can’t just print money. Anytime that there’s a tax increase, it should go before the people.”

Jennie L. Willardson

Age: 49

Occupation: customer service representative, West Corporation

Experience: She formerly worked as an administrative assistant for Willardson Consulting for 23 years.

Volunteer work: She is Washington State Daughters of the American Revolution Conservation chairman, treasurer for the 4th Legislative District Democrats.

Previous public involvement: ran for Spokane Valley City Council in 2005; applied for a planning commission seat in 2008

Details: She wants to attract high-tech companies to the city. “We need to bring that kind of high-tech industry to Spokane Valley that was originally envisioned,” she said. “Let’s explain what a great place Spokane Valley is when we’re sending out packets to attract people.” She also believes the city can save a lot of money by not doing unnecessary studies. “We spent a lot of time with the city center, making plans for property the city didn’t own. They had a lot of pretty designs made.”

Street preservation: She is not in favor of raising taxes to pay for projects. “This isn’t a good time for that, is it?” she said. Preserving roads now will be cheaper than replacing them entirely later, but she has no specifics on how the city should pay for it. “I have to admit that is something I would have to study more,” she said. “We are, of course, in tight economic times and revenues are down.”

Ben T. Wick

Age: 28

Occupation: IT system administrator, Goodrich Corp.

Volunteer work: He is Spokane County Interstate Fair superintendent and on the Spokane County Fair and Expo Center advisory board.

Previous public involvement: ran for Spokane Valley City Council in 2002; applied for a City Council seat in 2009

Details: Wick said he sees a lack of trust between the City Council and city staff and would like to improve that. Meetings he attended with the previous city council were more jovial and had a teamwork attitude. “I kind of want to rebuild that atmosphere,” he said. The staff handles the day to day work of running the city. “I just want to make sure they feel empowered.”

Street preservation: He favors increasing the city’s sales tax revenue to pay for needed street projects. Doing this would require being more business friendly to attract new businesses. “We’ll have more businesses contributing to the sales tax,” he said. The city should also have a clear plan for the future. “Businesses like plans,” he said. “Just having a plan for the future, nice entrances, something where our city is moving forward.”

Arne T. Woodard

Age: 57

Occupation: president and owner of Woodard Properties

Experience: Previously a licensed real estate broker with KC Properties Inc.

Volunteer work: He is a member of the Spokane Valley Planning Commission, serves on numerous community boards and committees.

Previous public involvement: applied for a planning commission seat in 2008; appointed to a planning commission seat in 2009

Details: He believes the staff and council need to have a servant attitude and “remember who we work for. Our bosses are the taxpayers.” The city also has too many planning regulations, he said. “I believe we have to and can be the city of ‘Yes, we can,’ ” he said. “That’s not to say we should have no planning.”

Street preservation: He is strongly apposed to raising taxes and reducing taxes is his ultimate goal. He favors reviewing the budget, restructuring it and using contracts as much as possible. That would save enough money to balance the budget and provide excess for street projects, he said.