Is it too early to talk about 2017?
While most Spokane residents have been focused on the national and state races decided with Tuesday's ballots, at least two contenders have their eyes on next year's open contest on the Spokane City Council. Kate Burke, a 27-year-old legislative aide to state Sen. Andy Billig and president of the Spokane Edible Tree Project nonprofit, filed paperwork with the Public Disclosure Commission on Sept. 2 to compete for the seat that will be vacated by City Councilwoman Amber Waldref, who will reach her two-term limit in office at the end of 2017. Kathryn Alexander, a 74-year-old entrepreneur and recent transplant to the Bemiss neighborhood, has also entered her name into the race.
Burke, a Spokane native who flirted with a run for the Spokane School Board last year but dropped out to support eventual winner Jerrall J. Haynes, said she filed early because she anticipates a long session in the Washington Legislature, which will inhibit her ability to raise funds ahead of the May 19, 2017 deadline for candidates to file for local offices.
"We're in this really pivotal spot in Spokane," said Burke, who grew up on the South Hill but moved away to Western Washington and the east coast to pursue interests in accessibility to fresh, locally sourced food. In addition to her work with the Spokane Edible Tree Project, which recruits volunteers to harvest fruit and nuts from non-orchard trees in town, Burke has also served on the board for Project Hope and as development director for the Lands Council.
Alexander, who is a co-chair for the Bemiss Neighborhood Council, arrived in the Lilac City by way of Michigan, California, Colorado, Arizona and New Mexico. She said her focus would be on continuing Waldref's work on abandoned properties and developing community in Spokane, where many residents are renters.
"One of the real wonderful things about Spokane is the relationships. People have been here generations. We talk to each other in lines at the store, we talk to each other on the bus, and it's just fine," Alexander said.
Burke said one of her first priorities would be to establish a city department geared toward providing services for young people and young families, working through the mayor's office. She said that while the city government has done a lot of good, departments don't talk to each other as much as they should, and City Hall doesn't do enough to coordinate the efforts of nonprofits in town.
"We're so small," Burke said. "We should use that to our advantage."
Alexander said she would tap into her professional experience, helping to improve the organization skills of businesses large and small, to seek efficiency in running city government. She earned her bachelor's in business administration and master's degree in organizational development from John F. Kennedy University in Pleasant Hill, California, and completed all but her dissertation for a Ph.D. from Saybrook University in Oakland.
"I’ve taught online, and I've taught in classrooms," Alexander said. "I’ve had my own business my entire life."
Waldref said she's met with both women and helped advise them on who to meet in the neighborhoods throughout northeast Spokane.
"I'm impressed by both of them," Waldref said. "I'm not going to endorse or anything. I may not ever, or I might. I'm definitely going to wait until after filing, and after I see how they're doing in terms of following up, and meeting with people."
Waldref said she plans to take some time off from elected office after her she's termed out of office next year to spend time with her children, but wouldn't rule out a future run for elected office.