Two years ago, newly sworn-in Spokane Valley Councilman Tom Towey served in that role for perhaps 10 minutes before his fellow council members elected him mayor.
Meetings were a little rough until Towey got his feet beneath him, but things quickly smoothed out. The meeting last week where Towey was unanimously re-elected to a second term as mayor was just another in a series of smoothly run proceedings.
Towey said he was a little surprised that he was the only one nominated for the position. “I know there are other council members that can really do a good job as mayor,” he said. “The support I’ve been given as mayor by the other council members has been great. They supported everything I wanted to do as mayor.”
The city has a city manager form of government, so Towey’s main jobs are to run council meetings and represent the city at a variety of meetings and gatherings. “I do have one vote, just like anybody else,” he said. “I try not to influence anyone right up until we get into the discussion on the dais.”
As recently as a few months ago Towey said he thought someone else should take over as mayor in 2012. “The two people that I wanted to go for it weren’t interested for different reasons,” he said. “I think it was the time factor. It does take a lot of time.”
Towey said he isn’t really sure how much time he spends on the job, as it varies from week to week. “I don’t even keep track of it,” he said. “I just go from one (thing) to the other.”
Looking back on his first term as mayor, Towey said he had the goal of getting citizens more involved. “I think we encouraged people to come and give comment,” he said. “I think we see a definite increase in people coming before us and giving comment on things that impact them.”
Towey said he’s also pleased at how well the city has been able to respond to citizen comments. “I think this council has proven they do listen,” he said.
But the last two years have not been without adversity. The majority of the council voted to dump the Sprague/Appleway Revitalization Plan, which had been under discussion for years. There was some rancor on the dais as council members at times exchanged heated remarks. In January, former Councilwoman Rose Dempsey, who found herself in the minority on many issues, resigned because the stress was affecting her health. In March, Councilman and state Sen. Bob McCaslin died.
“We’ve had our struggles,” Towey said. “All cities go through phases. There were some issues that came before us that rose to the level of me staying awake nights.”
When asked about the pointed remarks among council members during some meetings, Towey said his job is to make sure each council member has a voice “no matter where they are on an issue. As long as I continue to do that, I think the council as a whole benefits from that.”
Towey said he sees a lot of work ahead during the next two years. The Community Development Department is undergoing changes designed to make the permit process easier. The city is moving ahead on economic development planning. “We really are evaluating everything that we’re doing,” he said.
Businesses like Wal-Mart and Panda Express are opening new locations in the city. But despite those positive indicators, Towey said he expects a relatively flat 2012. This year is not an investment year, he said. “It’s a year when we have to maintain our services.”
Towey said it’s too soon to tell if the city will move ahead with a proposal to purchase land in a partnership with the Spokane County Library District. The deal would have each entity purchase half of an 8-acre parcel. “We were just presented with that at the last meeting,” Towey said. “There’s a lot of information we have to study.”
But there is one thing Towey is certain about. When his term on the council ends in two years, he will not run for re-election. “We’ve already started making plans to go south for the winter in 2014,” he said. He and his wife Karen, own a motor home and before he was elected to the council usually spent the winter traveling to warmer locations.