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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Experienced councilman challenged by new resident for seat on Medical Lake City Council

UPDATED: Thu., Oct. 3, 2019

Arthur Kulibert, left, faces Mitch Hardin in the November 2019 election for Medical Lake City Council position 5 (Courtesy)
Arthur Kulibert, left, faces Mitch Hardin in the November 2019 election for Medical Lake City Council position 5 (Courtesy)
By Ian Davis-Leonard For The Spokesman-Review

An experienced councilman hopes to make a comeback while a new resident wants to provide a new voice on the Medical Lake City Council.

The race for position 5 on the Medical Lake City Council is the only contest with more than one candidate among the five seats on the ballot.

Arthur Kulibert, 68, has four previous stints on the Medical Lake City Council, most recently holding a position from 2005 to 2015, his opponent, Mitch Hardin, 44, proudly said he is not a politician and has no political experience.

Despite their differing backgrounds, both men have the same priority: listening and communicating with the residents of Medical Lake.

Kulibert, a 22-year veteran of the Air Force and National Guard, learned this lesson the hard way after losing a re-election bid to the council in 1997 because constituents felt the council wasn’t transparent regarding rising costs in the city, he said.

“One of the things I concentrate on doing is making sure people know why we do things,” he said.

After not seeking re-election in 2015, Kulibert said he is running again because he possesses wisdom and experience that can be valuable on a council with just one holdover from the council of four years ago.

“I figured my past experience would be helpful, especially with the transition to the fire district,” he said.

In his previous terms on the council, Kulibert consistently aimed to be on the public safety and public works committees, supporting the fire department through several different fire chiefs. He said he backs the decision made by voters in the August election for the city to get its fire service from Spokane County Fire District 3, because it increases the stipend for the volunteer firefighters and unites the West Plains.

A former Army paratrooper, Hardin said he has a great respect for the value of local government. Despite living in Medical Lake for less than two years, Hardin said he can represent the people well.

“The most important issues are the issues that are important to the people of Medical Lake,” he said.

Before moving to Medical Lake, Hardin worked for about 14 years as a law enforcement officer in the Detroit area, but he declined to name the agencies he worked for. He became a police officer in Langley, Washington, in 2013, but was fired less than a year later.

Reports from The South Whidbey Record said Hardin was the “department’s darling” and he was elected president of the Langley Police Guild a month prior to his termination.

A statement from the city’s mayor to The South Whidbey Record in July 2014 said in part, “We released an employee who was on probation because the employee, in the view of the city, did not satisfactorily fulfill the expectations of their probationary employment.”

Hardin said the firing was political, based on his activities with the union and described it as a “hit job.”

“I was terminated, I don’t hide from that and I don’t hide my head in the sand,” Hardin said. “I was a good cop.”

Hardin sued the city, police guild and police chief, a lawsuit that was dismissed by an Island County Superior Court judge. According to Hardin, he did not lose his certifications with the Washington State Criminal Justice Training Commission following his dismissal until it expired in 2017.

He said honesty and transparency would be his greatest focus and promised not to compromise the oath taken by an elected official. He said he plans to prioritize talking with Medical Lake community members.

“I’m just a local guy, I want to get to work and make sure Medical Lake stays a great place to live,” Hardin said.

While the candidates agree on representing their constituents, they varied on how best to handle the city’s water system.

Hardin said he is concerned about the city’s water quality because of its proximity to Fairchild Air Force Base. He acknowledged, however, that he doesn’t have proof that it is unsafe.

“It is very concerning,” Hardin said. “The government says, ‘Oh, it is fixed.’ Is it really?”

Based on previous knowledge and experience with the issue of water safety in Medical Lake, Kulibert is not concerned and said the water should continue to be safe in the future.

Instead, Kulibert said he aspires to redo city streets as can be afforded, improve drainage and maintain streets and other city infrastructure so they look appealing. As the city has grown, it has verged on no longer qualifying for small city grants, Kulibert said he would continue to assist in the application for other grants to solidify the city’s funding.

“I have a lot of experience of what has been done in the past,” Kulibert said. “I am aware of how much we can do with our limited revenue, and I intend to continue to contact citizens. I am always open to their questions and I consider myself impartial, even if I may not agree. If the majority of people feel something is important, I’ll push for what the majority of people in town would like.”

Editor’s note: Because of an editor’s error, the report originally was published with an incorrect byline. The story was reported by Ian Davis-Leonard.

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