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Election preview: Former Spokane Valley Mayor Towey challenges Woodard for council

UPDATED: Tue., Oct. 6, 2015

Former Spokane Valley Mayor Tom Towey, right, is challenging incumbent Arne Woodard for a seat on the Spokane Valley City Council. (Jonathan Brunt / The Spokesman-Review)
Former Spokane Valley Mayor Tom Towey, right, is challenging incumbent Arne Woodard for a seat on the Spokane Valley City Council. (Jonathan Brunt / The Spokesman-Review)

Spokane Valley voters have two experienced choices in the City Council race for position 3.

Former Mayor Tom Towey is challenging incumbent Deputy Mayor Arne Woodard Spokane Valley seat.

Towey was mayor of the Valley from 2010-13 but didn’t run for re-election when his term was up because his wife was ill.

“She’s fine now,” Towey said, “and she kind of wants me out of the house.” For an elected official, Towey is very uncomfortable with the attention that comes with the job.

“People start treating you differently when you are elected and I don’t like that,” Towey said, adding that Spokane Valley Mayor Dean Grafos persuaded him to run again. Towey would like to see Spokane Valley work better and closer with the surrounding municipalities.

“The decisions we make in the Valley affect other people nearby,” Towey said, adding that he’d like to see a better working relationship especially with Spokane County. “I work well with committees and on solving problems.”

Woodard is at the end of his first full council term and he said he’s not the contrarian some make him out to be.

“I’m cooperative, but I question everything,” Woodard said. “I think that’s my job. People elected me to do that.” Woodard said one of the biggest issues facing the Valley is how to balance economic growth − more than 5,000 new businesses have been registered there in five years − with the traditional Valley landscape Woodard would like to preserve.

“The core of the Valley is under a lot of stress from being rezoned,” Woodard said. “We must provide a place for all strata of people to live − from the wealthiest to the homeless.” He’s got faith that reworking the comprehensive plan will solve some of these issues, and it’s important to him to preserve some green space.

Woodard added that he does not want the Valley to have its own police department.

“I’m not against the sheriff. Now is not the time for us to have our own police force,” Woodard said.

Towey also supports the contract with the Spokane County Sheriff’s Office, calling it “one of the best contracts of any city in Washington.”

Towey said the council has become so divisive that it sometimes seems unable to conduct business.

“We need more collaboration on the council,” Towey said. “It has to be more of a teamwork.”

The two candidates both have strong opinions about taxes. Woodard said it should be the absolutely last resort for the council.

“The 2016 budget will be the seventh year where we have not increased the property tax by 1 percent as we are allowed to be state law,” Woodard said.

Towey said the Valley must maintain its status as a pay-as-you-go lower-cost contract city because it benefits its citizens. The city currently contracts with other entities to conduct many of it services.

During his tenure, Towey put the brakes on some good projects because the city simply couldn’t afford them.

“We had our backs against the wall and we knew it,” Towey said, adding that then newly hired city manager Mike Jackson deserves a lot of credit for turning the city around. “He really showed us what was going on.”

Towey said his record as “an experienced and proven leader” speaks for itself, and his business background makes him an ideal candidate.

“I’m used to sticking to a budget while I work things out with people,” Towey said.

Woodard said he is constantly doing research, comparing and contrasting Spokane Valley to how other municipalities do things.

“I’m constantly doing research,” Woodard said. “I’m very independent. If that’s a negative − then I’m guilty.”

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