If the primary ballot returns are any indication, incumbent Deer Park Mayor Tim Verzal is heavily favored to win re-election in his race against political newcomer Hazel McGillivray. On the August ballot Verzal won 70% of the vote compared to McGillivray’s 27%.
The third candidate on the primary ballot, Hargis “Jeff” Adams, was eliminated in the primary.
McGillivray said she and Adams are friends and he is endorsing her. Neither knew the other was filing to run ahead of time, she said. “We did not realize we were both signing up for mayor,” she said.
McGillivray said she wasn’t discouraged by the results of the primary election. At the time she’d only had a month to campaign and she said as a political newcomer running against an incumbent she has an uphill battle on her hands.
“To get 27% of the vote I thought was quite encouraging,” she said.
Verzal served on the Deer Park City Council for four years before becoming mayor four years ago. He’s worked for 7 C’s Construction for 20 years and currently works for the company part-time. The work he’s done there has given him valuable experience in sewer and water systems and road building, Verzal said. The city is working on wastewater improvements and adding new wells, he said.
“We’re staying on top of the game,” he said. “Hopefully that will build a new tax base for spending.”
He’s also been working to improve city parks, including adding new play equipment where it’s needed.
The city currently contracts with the Spokane County Sheriff’s Office for two deputies, and Verzal said he’s been trying to get that number increased.
“They’ve had a lot of early retirements and that’s affected us,” he said. “They’ve got a lot in training right now and hopefully we’ll get one or two.”
One of the biggest debates going on in Deer Park is whether the city should have, or can afford to have, its own police department. Verzal said he put together a committee to help find a consultant to explore the feasibility of the idea. Once the City Council selects a consultant the committee will be in charge of getting public input on what level of service citizens want from a police department.
“For the 2022 budget, I put up to $100,000 in there for a consultant,” he said.
Though it’s an idea favored by some residents and council members, Verzal said he doesn’t believe a police department is necessary.
“At this point, I don’t,” he said. “Our crime rate is down. This is the council’s decision, not mine.”
McGillivray said she’s not sold on the idea of creating a police department.
“I’m not 100% against it, either,” she said. “I want to see all the reports.”
She wants to talk to leaders in other small towns in the area.
“We can learn an awful lot about communities who have already been here,” she said.
She said she would also exploring having the Washington State Patrol assist with traffic control in Deer Park, McGillivray said.
“I did some research,” she said. “It is possible. That might be a piece of the puzzle.”
McGillivray manages several rental houses that she and her husband purchased and remodeled themselves. She previously worked as a telecommunications manager for Murray Franklin for more than 10 years.
One issue that McGillivray is focused on is economic renovation in Deer Park.
“One of the things that is a big issue in Deer Park right now is the lack of a second grocery store,” she said.
Although the population of Deer Park is under 5,000, there are 15,000 residents in the surrounding area, she said. She believes it’s enough to easily support a second store.
“We have the economic base,” she said.
Deer Park used to have a lot of things, McGillivray said, including a movie theater, a bowling alley and a hotel.
“The worst losses, I believe, are the recreational opportunities,” she said.
McGillivray said the city needs to work to be more welcoming to businesses and can do that in part by upgrading the city’s website. She said many things aren’t online and that it isn’t possible to do things like apply for a building permit online.
“That’s the way business gets done these days,” she said. “I think we have so much potential.”
McGillivray said she has a lot of practical life experience to bring to the job. Verzal, however, said he believes government experience is a key requirement for the position. “There’s a lot you need to know in this job,” he said. “This isn’t a position you just walk into.”
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