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Monday, July 6, 2020  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Three first-time candidates vie for Airway Heights City Council seat

UPDATED: Fri., July 5, 2019

The Airway Heights position 7 council race is full of fresh faces.

The three candidates are all seeking their first elected office, and the candidates all have strong ties to Airway Heights.

Sarah Slater is running to build a community focused on the next generation. Slater has four children and is heavily involved in the Parent Teacher Organization. She is a substitute teacher in the Cheney School District.

“I think my heart is with kids and families,” Slater said. “Working with so many of the students, seeing the struggles of the families and kids in this area – I want to be a voice for those people.”

Her connection to children and families comes in part from her difficult upbringing, Slater said. She didn’t finish high school and later got her GED while also caring for her younger siblings.

“I think a lot of how I was raised gave me the sense to strive to be better, to give my kids better, to give the kids in Airway Heights better,” Slater said.

While Slater is focused on supporting families, she acknowledges she doesn’t know much about the behind-the-scenes of City Council.

“I can’t have an opinion without all the facts,” Slater said.

Often, the community doesn’t find out about a new development or a change in policy until it has been decided, Slater said.

The City Council does have resources for the community to learn about city business but there should be more ways to be connected, Slater said.

Jennifer Morton calls herself a career learner. Morton has spent much of her adult life in school earning degree after degree.

The focus for the campaign is “listening and learning,” Morton said.

Morton’s background as a veteran has taught her how to become a leader, she said. She is a first generation immigrant from Haiti. After being adopted by her father, Morton became a naturalized citizen. She is also the first in her family to graduate from college. Those experiences have taught her persistence, Morton said.

“Airway Heights has that small-town feel,” said Morton, who grew up in the nearby small town of Davenport.

The community is friendly and affordable, she said.

Morton is hoping to help guide the city through growth.

“The growth is going to be pretty substantial in what sounds like a short amount of time,” Morton said.

Big businesses like Amazon are moving to the area, along with changes at Fairchild Air Force Base that will bring more residents to the West Plains.

With the projected growth, school redistricting could be an option, Morton said. She is researching planned city growth and plans to start attending City Council meetings to familiarize herself with the process, she said.

Her goal is to “listen to the community” and to learn from experienced City Council members to match her personal background and knowledge to their experience, Morton said.

Dakota Lawrence wants to bring young fresh ideas to the council. Lawrence grew up watching both of his parents serve on the council. Hie father still serves on the body.

Lawrence said he didn’t see any problems with serving on the council with his dad, whose term ends at the end of 2021.

He is running to “stir it up with some younger thinking,” Lawrence said.

“We need something different now since it’s always been the same,” Lawrence said of the council.

His goal is to build a community that is more caring where people feel they can be involved, Lawrence said.

With Fairchild Air Force Base “in our backyard,” he hopes to encourage military personnel to be more involved in the greater Airway Heights community.

In 2017, the water in Airway Heights was deemed unsafe due to high levels of contamination linked to chemical use at Fairchild.

Airway Heights used Spokane’s water system to help flush out the pipes and the water returned to drinkable levels within weeks.

Lawrence hopes to work on a “specific approach” to the water issue. He said he believes the water issues are “putting a hamper on development” in the area.

Slater has “mixed feelings” about the water issues.

“We’ve been drinking this water. We’ve been giving it to our children,” Slater said.

The problem is getting taken care of now, Slater said. Once the city found out it was an issue they handled it well, she added.

However, Slater wants to learn more about the water issue and continue to keep the community informed.

Morton says the city needs to develop a long-term solution to the water problem and community members need more reassurance that the water will continue to be safe to drink.

“Safety is the No. 1 priority,” said Morton, on the water issue.

Airway Heights recently opened a community recreation center that has been controversial to some because residents paid taxes for the center but also have to pay membership fees, Slater said.

“I don’t mind that, I guess, if my taxes are going to go to something I prefer it to be something positive in the community,” Slater said.

The recreation center should just be the start, Lawrence said.

“The rec center was a good start, but there can be more,” Lawrence said. “General expansions I guess for everyone, maybe another park – more things for the kids.”

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