The field of candidates for Deer Park City Council Position 1 is large with incumbent Mary Babb facing three challengers .
Babb points to her experience helping the town make progress and says she has more to give the community.
The challengers say it’s time for new voices on the City Council.
Billy Costello, who owns a State Farm Insurance office, said he moved to Deer Park in 2012 to be near family. He fell in love with the area and thought it would be a great place to raise a family, Costello said.
“I love the small town feeling that Deer Park has,” he said.
But growth is coming, and Costello said it needs to be planned for.
“I’ve got a lot of skin in the game,” he said. “I really think some change is needed. There’s a lot of people on the City Council that have been on the council a long time. We need some new voices.”
Costello, who has no previous political experience, worked as an analyst for Verizon Wireless for four years before starting work with State Farm 10 years ago. He opened his own insurance office three years ago.
Henry Lever grew up in Monroe, Washington, and moved to Deer Park because houses were too expensive in Monroe.
“Monroe used to be what Deer Park is,” he said. “Then it just exploded. This just seemed like a better place to raise a family.”
Lever said he’s always been interested in politics.
“Why not me?” he said. “Why can’t I do something? I just want to get involved and be done sitting on the sidelines complaining.”
He has five young children and said it’s important for young families to be represented on the City Council.
“I think it’s important to have that perspective,” he said. “I think we need a younger generation in there.”
Lever, who also has no political experience, has worked as an auditor for the state of Washington for the last four years. He served in the Marine Corps before he entered college.
Jason Upchurch grew up in the Tri-Cities and is currently the pastor of Redeemer Bible Church. He arrived in Deer Park 10 years ago to lead Grace Church and spent six years there before going to Redeemer.
Upchurch said he likes Deer Park because people work together.
“I just love this place,” he said. “It’s cozy. It’s charming.”
Upchurch’s children are homeschooled and in 2016 his oldest child began asking about politics. Upchurch took him to a City Council meeting.
“We were both hooked,” he said. “You’re watching your neighbors make these really cool decisions.”
Upchurch said he began thinking about running for a council seat two years ago.
“It didn’t make sense at the time,” he said. “Now seems like the time.”
He said he was surprised to find himself in such a crowded field.
“I thought it was just going to be me and Mary,” he said. “She loves the people here, but she’s been here three terms. I’m kind of a fan of term limits.”
Babb has lived in Deer Park since 1967 and raised her two sons there. She ran a dairy farm with her first husband, who died 20 years ago, and was a cook at Shagnasty’s Restaurant for 20 years. She was a 4-H leader for 13 years and has been involved with the Eagles and the VFW for decades.
A friend who served with her on the Settlers Committee, which organizes an annual community festival, initially suggested she run for council years ago.
“The first time I ran I lost by one vote,” she said.
She also lost the second time she ran but was elected 12 years ago. Babb said she would like to serve for one more term. “Now I’m retired and it’s kinda hard not to do nothing,” she said. “I would love to do it again. I’m very pleased with how things are running. I feel like I’ve still got a lot to do to help.”
Babb said in her time on the council she’s helped keep the airport and the golf course up and running.
“I’m responsible for this last roundabout,” she said of a recently completed roundabout on Crawford Road. “They had to listen to me complain.”
Babb said she’d like to help attract more businesses to Deer Park.
“I’d love to see another grocery store, a hotel or a motel and more family restaurants,” she said. “I do not want to lose what we have in terms of small business.”
She said she’s not surprised that she has a full slate of challengers this election.
“I knew it was coming,” she said. “It should. Look at how much we’ve grown. Competition doesn’t hurt anybody.”
One issue sets the candidates apart from each other. In recent months there have been discussions about whether the town should form its own police department. The city currently has a contract with the Spokane County Sheriff’s Office. Proponents of the idea argue that the city will get more dedicated law enforcement coverage while those with the opposing viewpoint are concerned about the cost of setting up and running a police department.
Babb said she’s against a police department because of the costs involving in hiring, training and equipping officers, in addition to buying police cars.
“When I first moved out here, we had one,” she said. “It did not go well. It was really bad.”
The problem, Babb said, is that there weren’t enough officers to provide full coverage.
“You can’t have one, maybe two,” she said. “You just can’t do it.”
Cost is also a prohibitive issue, she said.
“We still cannot afford it,” she said. “There’s too much to it.”
Upchurch said he’s in favor of Deer Park having its own police department. He said he did a Facebook poll and the result was overwhelmingly in favor of creating one. He said he’s done research and that Colville’s department costs $1.9 million a year for 12 full-time employees. “That’s a little more than double what we pay now,” he said.
Upchurch said he didn’t know how the town would pay for its own department, however.
“There’s going to be some start up costs,” he said. “That’s the concern. I don’t want to raise taxes.”
Creating a new department would take time.
“Maybe we pick up another deputy in the interim,” he said. “Maybe that’s the solution. What I want people to understand is it’s not out of reach. Based on comparable cities and comparable coverage, I think we can do this.”
Lever is also in favor of a police department, though he isn’t sure how to pay for it. He said his van was broken into a couple years ago and someone smashed his taillight the first winter he lived in Deer Park. While those are petty crimes, Lever said he’s worried about what is to come.
“It’s not bad yet,” he said. “If you don’t do anything, it will get worse and worse.”
He said he rarely sees the deputies assigned to cover Deer Park.
“I think we need a police department, especially with the growth of Deer Park.”
Costello, however, said he doesn’t favor creating a police department. While he thinks more law enforcement coverage is needed, he favors increasing the number of contracted deputies through the Sheriff’s Office.
“We definitely need a bigger police presence here,” he said. “It just doesn’t make financial sense to start our own department.”
Nina Culver can be reached at email@example.com.
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