Political newcomer Holly Woodruff is challenging incumbent Dan Dunne for his seat on the Liberty Lake City Council, which Dunne has held for eight years.
Dunne first served on Liberty Lake’s planning commission for three years before deciding to run for the City Council in 2012. He said serving on the planning commission first helped him understand how municipal government works.
“I did enjoy being able to engage with people,” he said.
Dunne said he wants to be involved in the community and saw a seat on the council as a progression in his responsibilities. “To me, it is a performance of service,” he said. “I appreciate my community.”
Liberty Lake has created memories and growth for him, Dunne said, and he’s able to work being a council member into his work responsibilities. “I’m committed to this level of action,” he said.
Dunne grew up in Renton, Washington, and earned a degree in mechanical engineering from the University of Washington. He came to Liberty Lake in 2002 and eventually decided it would be more fun to create things with people instead of materials like aluminum and steel. He went back to school and earned his MBA from Gonzaga University in 2012. He now does information technology work for Washington Trust Bank.
Woodruff moved to the area five years ago to be closer to her grandchildren and said she has been attending City Council meetings since.
“I’ve been toying with the idea of running” for office, she said.
She said she finds the City Council discussions interesting and likes how they listen to community input. When she was appointed to the city’s salary commission, that was the final push she needed.
“The more I learned about what the City Council did, the more I thought, ‘I want to do that,’ ” she said. “I love budget stuff. I know I’m odd.”
Woodruff grew up in Cincinnati and studied to be a teacher for a year at the University of Cincinnati before leaving school to get married. At age 19, she was Cincinnati’s first female television engineer.
“That was back when you could be self-taught in engineering,” she said. “You didn’t have to have a degree.”
She went back to school and earned a bachelor’s degree in social work in 1993 and a master’s degree in social work in 1994, both from Indiana University. She was a mental health social worker and then worked at Earlham College in Richmond, Indiana, for 15 years before retiring as director of counseling services in 2013. She still teaches online classes in social work through Indiana University.
Woodruff said being involved in the community is important to her. She is president of the Friends of the Liberty Lake Municipal Library. “I’m contributing now,” she said. “I can do even more on the council. It’s a chance to serve the community. My grandsons live here. I want this to be a good place for them to grow up.”
The city’s most pressing issue is a budget that can handle public safety and infrastructure improvements, Woodruff said.
“I want to assure that Liberty Lake continues to grow in a way that does not exceed our resources and revenue.”
Dunne said he believes transportation is a big issue in Liberty Lake. “The city right now is on the cusp of some huge construction endeavors,” he said.
He pointed to the new Selkirk Middle School and to Ridgeline High School, which is under construction. Those will drive growth and development that will drive the city’s transportation needs. The Henry Road overpass, recently approved, will be a critical piece of transportation flow, Dunne said.
But Dunne said it’s important to consider pedestrians and bicyclists when thinking about future infrastructure needs, particularly since Liberty Lake is known for its abundance of trails. “It’s not simply the movement of cars,” he said. “Non-car traffic is an important way of moving people around.”
He said the city also needs to consider affordable housing, for people like recent college graduates or widows moving closer to their grandchildren.
“We as a community need to have a diversity of housing,” he said.
Dunne said he believes he has an edge in the election.
“I have experience and demonstrated results in action,” he said. “I believe I’ve demonstrated my ability to create partnerships.”
Woodruff said she pledges to complete a Certificate of Municipal Leadership, which requires 30 credit hours, within two years if she is elected. She said Dunne still has not completed his.
“He’s served for eight years and still has only nine credits,” she said. “I just feel I can bring new ideas and new leadership to the position.”
She said she chose to run against Dunne because he was the only person running unopposed when she signed up to run.
Dunne noted that when he first ran for office in 2012 he was unopposed, something that has happened frequently in Liberty Lake. He said he’s pleased to see a lot of people running for office this year.
“For me it’s really exciting,” he said. “I really value participation. This means something. People are paying attention and that’s good.”
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