This year may go down as the year of the candidate as races in small towns and fire districts are crowded enough to warrant a spot on the primary election ballot that is being mailed this week.
In Rockford one of the key issues is how to pay for the town’s contract with the Spokane County Sheriff’s Office and if the town is getting enough bang for its buck. For residents in Latah, the issue is whether to fog for mosquitoes and if so, what chemical to use.
All three candidates for the open commissioner seat in Spokane County Fire District 9 say there is no controversial issue driving interest in the race, but a recent vacancy on the commission drew 24 applications.
The two people receiving the most votes in each race will advance to the general election in November.
Rockford City Council Position 5
Larry Van Every is the incumbent and was appointed to the council to fill a vacancy earlier this year. However, Van Every said he has resigned his position on the council as of July 12 to deal with a family emergency that may require him to move out of state. He said his intention is to withdraw from the race, but the ballots were printed weeks ago and his name will still appear.
“I have no idea whether I’ll be staying in the area,” he said. “I don’t think it’s fair to the voters to continue.”
Robert Tollefson, 53, is the manger of the Rockford Mini-Mart. A plasterer and painter by trade, he has worked a variety of jobs, including at the local Cenex mill and a seed company in Fairfield.
Tollefson said he is generally in favor of the town’s contract with the sheriff’s office but believes it could be better. “I know how things used to be,” he said. “We used to contract and have a certain amount of hours that an officer was here. That is no longer the way the contract works.”
The sheriff’s office has fewer deputies than it used to, Tollefson said, “but I believe there’s room for the sheriff to work with us more.”
There has been talk of imposing a utility tax to help pay for the contract and Tollefson said he would be willing to consider it. “If it becomes necessary, I will do so,” he said. “What else are you going to do? Either we take care of business or we fold.”
Tollefson and his wife Mary Jo have been married for 20 years and have three children.
The third candidate for the seat, Chuck Collison, did not respond to repeated requests for comment.
Latah City Council Position 2
Larry La Bolle, 56, has lived in Latah off and on for the past 11 years and works as the director of federal and regional affairs for Avista Utilities. He’s currently a member of the Southeast Spokane County Historical Society and is serving on the town’s streets committee.
Recent debate in Latah has centered on the council’s plan to spray insecticide targeting adult mosquitoes. Some residents objected to that and a group of citizens came up with a proposal to spray for larval mosquitoes instead, La Bolle said.
“I kind of watched that issue from the side,” La Bolle said. “I think there are other ways to treat mosquitoes without adult fogging.”
He favors a collaborative decision-making process and wants to find a solution everyone can live with “instead of having winners and losers,” La Bolle said. He also wants to devote attention to creating a long-term plan for street maintenance and upgrades.
La Bolle and his wife Lisa have been married for six years and have six children.
Candidates Teresa Galvin, who is the town’s mayor, and Dan Keller did not respond to repeated requests for comment. The incumbent for Position 2, Douglas Arnold, is running for mayor.
Spokane County Fire District 9 Commissioner Position 3
Incumbent John Bjork was appointed to his position in October by the Spokane County commissioners when fire commissioners couldn’t agree on which of 24 applicants to name to the vacant seat.
Bjork, 73, retired from the city of Spokane as the director of water and hydroelectric services after working there for more than 20 years. “I had coordinated with fire departments and districts all the time when I was working with the city,” he said.
His candidacy comes from a desire to serve, not any specific issue, Bjork said. “I can’t tell you why there were 20 some applications,” he said. “It’s a pretty well operated fire district.”
Bjork and his wife Christine have been married since 1967 and have two children.
Jim Bennett submitted one of those 24 applications and is now taking a second try at gaining the seat. Bennett, 55, has worked as a paramedic for American Medical Response for the last 22 years.
He previously lived in Stevens County, where he was a volunteer firefighter with Stevens County Fire Protection District 1 for more than a decade. He was also the District 1 chief medical officer before serving as a fire commissioner from 1999 to 2005.
Bennett said he just wants to help his community.
“I think I can bring something to the board,” he said. “There’s nothing there that needs fixing or changing.”
Bennett and his wife Lisa have been married for 10 years and have one daughter.
Judy Personett, 72, retired as a registered nurse last year. During her career she worked at nine Department of Veterans Affairs hospitals and the Spokane County Jail before serving nine years on the Washington State Nursing Care Quality Assurance Commission.
Personett was also one of the 24 applicants for the position that ultimately went to Bjork. She said she plans to raise money and actively campaign.
“I would like to ensure that people and businesses are safe from fire,” she said. She also wants to ensure that the quality of paramedic care is maintained, Personett said. “The demand keeps increasing.”
Personett is single and has three grown children.