May 25, 2013 in Washington Voices

Competition fills small town elections

Some, like Rockford, look to be fiercely contested
By The Spokesman-Review

Brewing controversies are making for unusually contentious elections in some small Spokane County towns.

Former Rockford town council member Steve Meyer is running to unseat Mayor Micki Harnois.

One of the key reasons Meyer resigned from the council was the mayor’s handling of the town’s contract with the Spokane County Sheriff’s Office for policing services. “I just, at that point, did not agree with the mayor and some of the council decisions,” he said. “More than anything, the mayor needs to follow what the council wants to do.”

Last November the council voted to cancel the contract, Meyer said. “The mayor decided on her own to defy the council and try to negotiate with the Sheriff’s Office.”

State law requires that towns either provide police protection or contract out for it, Harnois said. “It put me in a hard position,” she said. “We’re going against state laws there. I don’t think they realized that until later on.”

Harnois said the council later voted to continue the law enforcement contract once members understood that it was required. The contract has been the topic of discussion for years as costs rise and the town’s budget shrinks. Some people complain about long response times, yet after a recent bank robbery deputies arrived quickly, Harnois said. “I think that’s the thorn in most of the town’s side,” she said.

Harnois said she filed to run again because there are more things she wants to do, including economic development and housing projects. “I’m an oddity,” she said. “I probably did more than what I had to do and what was expected and that was my choice. Other mayors may not do the same.”

Meyer said many people in the community asked him to run. “I finally agreed because no one was willing to run against (Harnois),” he said. “Maybe I can’t get anything done, but I’m going to try if I win.”

Three town council seats are up for election, and two are contested.

Position 1: Incumbent David Thompson faces Steven Christman.

Position 2: Appointed incumbent Carrie Roecks does not have a challenger.

Position 5: Incumbent Larry Van Every has two challengers – Chuck Collison and Robert Tollefson.

Races with three or more candidates will be on the Aug. 6 primary ballot. Other candidates will be on the Nov. 5 ballot.


Mosquito fogging is the issue dividing the town of Latah.

Councilman Douglas Arnold is running for mayor against Chari Conklin. Mayor Teresa Galvin filed for council Position 2, which was previously held by Arnold. Larry La Bolle and Dan Keller are also running for that seat. Melanie Meagher, who has held Position 4, filed against Position 1 incumbent Patricia Neumann, who is seeking re-election.

“We have had in the last year or so a lot of contentious council meetings,” Arnold said. “Our issue is whether mosquito fogging should be done with Biomist 4+4.”

A group of residents was against using the chemical, he said. “The mayor was definitely in favor of it,” he said. “Enough council members were in favor of it that it was always approved whenever it was voted on.”

Arnold voted against using the chemical, but he said he understands the need to control mosquitoes. “I also understand that not every chemical approved by the FDA is necessarily a good chemical to be spraying around,” he said.

The town eventually went with a larvacide rather than the Biomist, which targets adult mosquitoes, he said.

In other Latah races: Incumbent Yvonne Warren faces Garry Greenwalt for Position 3. Steven Leitz is the only candidate for Position 4.

Other towns

• In Fairfield, Mayor Ed Huber has decided not to seek re-election. Former council member KayDee Gilkey is the only one running for the job.

“She has six years council experience,” Huber said. “I’m just tickled. I think she’ll be a great mayor.”

Huber said after eight years as mayor and three years on the council, it was time for a break. “I decided to let someone else in the community take on the role,” he said. “I’ll just step back for a little while. Who knows, maybe I’ll seek a council seat in a little bit or something.”

Fairfield council Position 1 incumbent Harry Gibbons does not have an opponent. Alene Felgenhauer and John Jesseph are running for Position 2.

• Changes are coming to Millwood, where longtime Mayor Dan Mork did not file for re-election. Kevin Freeman, who formerly held council Position 1, and Dennis Hamlin are running for mayor. Richard Schoen, who currently has council Position 2, is running unchallenged for Position 1; and Daniel Sander is running unopposed for Position 2.

• In Waverly, all incumbents are running unopposed.

• In Spangle, Position 2 incumbent Ralph Sunwold is running unopposed and no one filed for Position 1.

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