County sees plenty of races
Rockford, Fairfield and Latah all have multiple candidates pursuing open seats
It’s an unusual state of affairs this year in small town Spokane County politics: Nearly every open position is contested.
Often it’s tough to find one person interested in filling a seat. But information on some of the candidates is scarce, as several did not respond to requests for comment and also failed to submit information to the Spokane County Elections Office for its voter’s guide. Here’s a look at some of the races:
The hot issue in Rockford has been the town’s contract with the Spokane County Sheriff’s Office. At one point last year, the council voted to discontinue the contract, then reversed course when they realized state law obligates the town to either provide law enforcement services or contract for them.
Some put blame for the controversy at the feet of Mayor Micki Harnois, who is running for re-election. The dust up prompted Steve Meyer to resign his position on the council and then file to run against Harnois.
Harnois works as a planner for the city of Spokane Valley. She serves on numerous boards and committees and previously served on the City Council for 12 years.
“My goals are to promote economic development, tourism and continue to seek infrastructure funding,” Harnois said.
Meyer spoke previously about his opposition to the mayor’s handling of the Sheriff’s Office contract but did not respond to recent requests for comment.
Position 1 incumbent David Thompson, who works as the production manager for Craftsman Construction in Millwood, was appointed to his seat about 18 months ago. “My biggest goal, if I am to get re-elected, is to fix the infrastructure of the town of Rockford,” he said. “Both water and sewer piping needs to be upgraded, as well as roads need to be fixed.”
His opponent, Steven Lyle Christman, did not respond to requests for comment.
Chuck Collison and Robert Tollefson faced off in the August primary in their race for Position 5. Tollefson, the manager of the Rockford Mini-Mart, has spoken in favor of the town’s contract with the Sheriff’s Office but would like to see more of a police presence in town. Collison did not respond to requests for comment.
The issue dividing the town of Latah has been fogging for mosquitoes, with some arguing for an insecticide that targets adult mosquitoes and others recommending using a larvicide that targets the eggs.
More recently, the council has been considering whether to contract with the Spokane Regional Animal Protection Service for animal control after a recent dog attack on council member Patricia Neumann left some unsatisfied with the contract with SpokAnimal.
There’s a bit of musical chairs on the Latah ballot: Appointed council member Douglas Arnold is running for mayor against Charisma Conklin. Teresa Galvin, who filed for council Position 2, was mayor until she resigned in August without explanation. Position 4 incumbent Melanie Meagher filed for Position 1, challenging incumbent Neumann.
Neumann, who retired from the Central Valley School district as a paraeducator, wants to make Latah more family friendly by encouraging people to meet their neighbors. “We’re trying to get more activities going every month to get people together,” she said.
Meagher, her opponent, did not respond to requests for comment.
An August primary vote narrowed the field for Position 2, leaving Galvin facing challenger Larry La Bolle. La Bolle serves on Latah’s streets committee and is a member of the Southeast Spokane County Historical Society.
Galvin did not respond to requests for comment.
Arnold, who works in a Coeur d’Alene call center, said he wants to heal some of the rifts that have formed in town and set a more friendly tone. “The community has just gone through a lot of upheaval,” he said. “The town hall meetings lately have been contentious. It seems there are a lot of hurt feelings in town.”
Conklin, his opponent, did not respond to requests for comment.
Spokane County Fire District 9
Judy Personett and Jim Bennett advanced in the August primary, while appointed incumbent John Bjork received the lowest number of votes.
Both Personett and Bennett said they want to continue to maintain the good service provided by the district.
Bennett has a long record of service in Stevens County Fire Protection District 1 as a volunteer firefighter, chief medical officer and fire commissioner. He moved to District 9 in 2006.
Personett is a retired registered nurse and served on the Washington State Nursing Care Quality Assurance Commission for nine years.
Spokane Valley Fire Department
Former Spokane Valley Mayor Mike DeVleming is challenging longtime incumbent Ron Schmidt for Position 2 on the Spokane Valley Fire Department board of commissioners.
Schmidt, who has served as a commissioner for 24 years, wants to see the department go from a Class 3 insurance rating to a Class 2 to provide lower insurance rates for businesses. “That draws people in here,” he said.
DeVleming said he wants to help the department “maintain the high level of service citizens have enjoyed.” He would also like to make sure the board of commissioners has good communication with firefighters and the community.
There are two contested seats on the Fairfield City Council.
Alene Felgenhauer and John Jesseph are facing off for Position 2.
Jesseph, a certified arborist who recently sold Inland Tree Service after running it for 18 years, said he believes the town is heading in the right direction. “I would like to maintain that stability,” he said. “It’s a good little town.”
Felgenhauer used to be Fairfield’s deputy city clerk and serves on the town’s planning commission. She is running to represent the younger generation, she said. “I just think they need a fresh perspective,” she said.
Position 1 incumbent Harry Gibbons is running for re-election against Emily Thomas.
Gibbons is a retired dentist who served as mayor of Fairfield for 12 years in the 1960s and ’70s. “Right at the present time we’re doing pretty good,” he said. “I like to help people and this one way I can give the town of Fairfield back what they gave me.”
Thomas did not respond to requests for comment.