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Washington Voices

Three in running for Fire District 9 spot

All three candidates for the open commissioner seat in Spokane County Fire District 9 say there is no controversial issue driving interest in the race, but a recent vacancy on the commission drew 24 applications.

Incumbent John Bjork was appointed to his position in October by the Spokane County Commissioners when his two fellow commissioners couldn’t agree on which of 24 applicants to name to the vacant seat.

Bjork, 73, retired from the city of Spokane as the director of water and hydroelectric services after working there for more than 20 years. “I had coordinated with fire departments and districts all the time when I was working with the city,” he said.

His candidacy comes from a desire to serve, not any specific issue, Bjork said. “I can’t tell you why there were 20 some applications,” he said. “It’s a pretty well operated fire district.”

Bjork and his wife Christine have been married since 1967 and have two children.

Jim Bennett submitted one of those 24 applications and is now taking a second try at gaining the seat. Bennett, 55, has worked as a paramedic for American Medical Response for the last 22 years.

He previously lived in Stevens County, where he was a volunteer firefighter with Stevens County Fire Protection District 1 for more than a decade. He was also the District 1 chief medical officer before serving as a fire commissioner from 1999 to 2005.

Bennett said he just wants to help his community.

“I think I can bring something to the board,” he said. “There’s nothing there that needs fixing or changing.”

Bennett and his wife Lisa have been married for 10 years and have one daughter.

Judy Personett, 72, retired as a registered nurse last year. During her career she worked at nine Department of Veterans Affairs hospitals and the Spokane County Jail before serving nine years on the Washington State Nursing Care Quality Assurance Commission.

Personett was also one of the 24 applicants for the position that ultimately went to Bjork. She said she plans to raise money and actively campaign.

“I would like to ensure that people and businesses are safe from fire,” she said. She also wants to ensure that the quality of paramedic care is maintained, Personett said. “The demand keeps increasing.”

Personett is single and has three grown children.