Former television newsman Daryl Romeyn is making a second run at elective office this fall in a race for an open seat on the Spokane County Board of Commissioners.
Romeyn, a Democrat, is facing Republican Shelly O’Quinn, also in her second attempt to win an election.
They are competing for the seat being vacated by Republican Commissioner Mark Richard in Commissioner District 2.
Romeyn is pinning his hopes on a campaign that calls for economic development focused on small businesses and public assets.
He points to Gateway Regional Park along the Idaho state line, which he says is underused but has potential for tourist, economic development and recreational opportunities.
The county’s Patricia Simonet Laughing Dog Park occupies a portion of the 31-acre area, which also has more than 2,000 feet of shoreline along the Spokane River and access to the Centennial Trail.
“How can we use this piece of land, because right now it’s gone to the dogs,” Romeyn said. “There’s too much land sitting here empty.”
A former visitor center occupies the site along with a Blue Star Memorial Highway marker to honor members of the armed forces.
“We have absolutely deserted and defunded this place,” he said.
Romeyn, who turned 54 on Monday, pointed out that Idaho has an expanding commercial area across the state line, but the Spokane County side of the line has not taken advantage of the growing economy there.
He suggested that a piece of the land could be developed as a test apple orchard to support local farming. The former visitor’s center could be used as a local marketplace, he said.
Romeyn left KREM-TV in 2010 after working in the television news business in Spokane since 1985, covering news, weather and outdoors. His popular Romeyn’s Domain was a long-running feature during his years at KXLY-TV.
Born in Detroit, Romeyn graduated from the University of Michigan in 1980 with a degree in film. His path to Spokane took him through Medford, Ore.; Sheridan, Wyo.; and Yakima, where he held TV jobs.
After leaving KREM, Romeyn ran for Congress against Cathy McMorris Rodgers but ended up with just 36 percent of the vote.
He has since operated an organic asparagus farm and orchard at his Greenacres property in the east part of the county. He also runs a fruit drying and marketing business. His apples are sold under the Chewy Fuji label and in bulk bins at Huckleberry’s markets.
His farm business leads him to his view that small-scale agriculture has potential for growth in the Spokane area.
“I’m living lean right now but believing in my product,” he said.
Romeyn is single with no children. His farm is home to three donkeys he puts to work in a recreational passion – long distance trekking with the pack animals.
Romeyn said he is hoping that his name familiarity from TV news will help draw votes.
But his $7,000 in contributions are dwarfed next to the $75,000 raised by O’Quinn, who is gathering establishment support through her connections with Greater Spokane Incorporated, where she is education and workforce development director.
The contrasts between Romeyn and O’Quinn “are obvious,” Romeyn said.
She has the backing of the business interest group in GSI, which is a combination of chamber of commerce and economic development agency, he said.
If elected, Romeyn said he would end the county’s $225,000 annual contribution to GSI for economic development because the county can’t afford the spending.
He said GSI this year has failed to produce the number of new jobs it had promised.
Romeyn supports growth management land use and believes that any expansion of the urban growth area should be considered on a case-by-case basis rather than in the countywide effort under way by the current board of commissioners.
He supports light industrial development on the West Plains.
Romeyn supports reform in the criminal justice system to reduce costs. He favors letting voters decide on an increase of 0.2 percent in sales tax to pay for escalating costs for law enforcement, courts, probation and treatment programs.
He believes the commissioners made a big mistake in spending $4.4 million in 2008 to purchase Spokane County Raceway, which has had operating troubles ever since.
“They sold us a racetrack under the guise of economic development,” Romeyn said.