Sitting on a courthouse bench with a friend Friday afternoon before her political fate was decided by two balls the size of marbles, Latah Town Councilwoman Patricia Neumann said she wasn’t nervous.
Neumann’s bid to retain her seat on the Town Council in last month’s election ended in a 41-41 tie, with one Latah voter opting not to make a choice in the contest. The count didn’t budge after a recount. Under state law, the county auditor must pick a game of chance to pick a winner.
“Either way is fine because my life is so full of things I do,” Neumann said as she waited patiently on the wooden bench on the first floor of the courthouse.
But then TV cameras began to appear and Spokane County Auditor Vicky Dalton moved the proceedings to a place with a backdrop: the main courthouse stairwell under a giant painting of the courthouse.
By the time Dalton tipped a plastic bottle and a marble representing Neumann fell first from it, Neumann’s nerves were on edge.
“I didn’t know this was all such a to-do,” Neumann said after she was proclaimed the winner of the race when Dalton checked the ball that fell onto the lid of a cardboard box.
With the fall of the ball, Neumann beat Melanie Meagher. Meagher also is a Town Council member but opted to challenge Neumann rather than run for re-election. Meagher did not appear at the brief ceremony, and attempts to reach her were unsuccessful.
The Town Council often has struggled to find residents willing to serve. But it has been a contentious year in the small town, with debates about spraying for mosquitoes and over which agency should provide animal control.
There were challengers for three of the four Latah races on the ballot. Turnout in Latah reached 70 percent, higher than in any other town or city in Spokane County. The city of Spokane’s turnout, for example, was just 42 percent.
Neumann was appointed to her seat in January but had previously served on the council. She said her goal will be to improve communication between the council and residents it serves. She also hopes to improve the city’s website.
“I’m looking forward to another round of working with the council,” she said.