For some political offices, getting elected is difficult. For others, getting unelected can be even more challenging.
Take the Waverly Cemetery District in south Spokane County, for example. All three commissioners are up for election this year. None filed for re-election in May. Chances are good all will keep the nonpaying job.
In small towns and rural communities, a few people do most of the work, said Commissioner Evelyn Heinevetter, who also serves on the Waverly Town Council. Another commissioner, Don Evans, is the town postmaster and its fire chief.
“Most people don’t want to do anything except complain,” Heinevetter said.
Ten other rural districts and the town of Spangle face similar situations for the November election, with one or more offices that had no candidates file earlier this year. Spokane County will hold a special filing period from Aug. 7-9 to give would-be candidates a second chance. Whoever files will appear on the November ballot, with the office going to the person with the most votes, even if three or more people get in a race.
Heinevetter wasn’t even aware her seat was up this year until contacted by a reporter. The county sent out notices of offices up for election in February, but the board never received it, she said. They haven’t had a meeting since December. “We don’t have a lot of business.”
When told that the entire board was up, she was surprised. “That never happens,” she said.
It’s designed not to happen on a three-member board on which commissioners serve six-year terms staggered at two-year intervals. But the county elections office said it happened two years ago, too, for the Waverly Cemetery District. In part, that was because in 2011, Heinevetter’s four-year council term and her six-year cemetery commissioner term were both up. She tried to file for both, but state law says a person can only appear once on a ballot, so she filed for Town Council.
No one filed for her cemetery district seat, so under state law she kept it until the next regular local election, which is this year. The other commissioners didn’t file, either, and also kept their seats because no one else did.
Elections Manager Mike McLaughlin said some small water, fire and cemetery district boards actually plan for members not to file for re-election, assuming they’ll keep the office that most people don’t want, or even know about. It also saves the district from paying for its share of an election. Costs vary with the number of voters but are at least $50.