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Council interviews six for open seats

The Spokane Valley City Council interviewed six candidates for two open council positions Tuesday evening.

The candidates have very different resumes, but all supported the same policies: no budget increases, keep taxes low and focus on growing a strong tax base by retaining and recruiting more businesses.

Candidates waited in another room until it was their turn, and then councilmen took turns asking questions for no longer than 30 minutes. Because of the interview format, not everyone was asked the same questions.

The six candidates were:

Jonathan “Caleb” Collier, a letter carrier with a bachelor’s degree in history who is also a precinct committee officer for the Republican Party;

Pamela Joan Haley, who owns day care businesses in Spokane Valley and Spokane;

Frank Edward Hutchison, co-owner of Hutchison Solutions, who holds a doctorate in physics and has extensive experience as a business coach and consultant on government programs;

Michael J. Munch, president of Able Construction and the treasurer of the Stevens County Republican Party for two years;

Michelle René Rasmussen, the director of parking and transportation at Eastern Washington University in Cheney, who also worked as an administrative assistant for the city of Spokane Valley from 2008 to 2015; and

David Anson Wiyrick, a retired Spokane County undersheriff who now works as a private investigator.

Deputy Mayor Arne Woodard asked each candidate if they planned on running for office when five council seats are open in 2017. Hutchison said he would if he’s helping the city – if not, he said he’d get out of the way – and Wiyrick said he wasn’t certain. Everyone else said they are certain they would run.

Councilman Sam Wood asked Munch, Rasmussen and Wiyrick where they stand on marijuana. Munch said using marijuana is a personal choice that’s now legal in the state and marijuana businesses should be allowed to be open as long as they are properly located and regulated. Rasmussen said the industry is “too young” to expand further until the city has seen data on its impact, and Wiyrick said he believes there should be a cap on the number of shops allowed in Spokane Valley.

Collier, the youngest of the candidates, is married and has four young children “and one on the way,” but when questioned by Wood, he assured the council he had plenty of time to hold down a City Council seat.

“I would like to continue the business mindset for our city,” Collier said. “And I believe in less government and less intrusion. I believe people can largely govern themselves.”

When asked the time question, Haley said her businesses aren’t as time-consuming as they used to be. She added that sitting through the recent budget workshop made her realize how difficult the City Council job can be.

“I don’t know that I can promise people never ever any new taxes,” Haley said, “and that may not be what they want to hear.” She suggested the city use more social media as a way to communicate with residents.

Councilman Ed Pace asked every candidate where they would find funds for an estimated $1.6 million annual bond payment on a potential railroad overpass at Pines Road and Trent Avenue, and all the candidates suggested cutting spending and finding state and federal funding before looking at a tax increase. Everyone also agreed that any tax increase would have to be approved by voters.

Candidates were also asked about how to create a better sense of city identity.

“Identity is one of those things that is very nebulous – you can’t reach out and touch it but it’s very real,” Hutchison said. “I realize that I always say I’m from Spokane – because if I say Spokane Valley then the next question is, ‘Where is that?’ ” Hutchison said it requires a great deal of focus to make decisions that accurately reflect how the council wants to be perceived.

“You have to have a consistent message,” Hutchison said. “Identity is something that’s built up with a lot of small acts over a long time. Everyone has to have the same consistent message.”

An executive session will be held before Tuesday’s regular council meeting to discuss the candidates. Once back in open session, the council will appoint two new members who will be sworn in at the meeting.


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