The manager of a hardware store is facing a former Federal Aviation Administration worker in the race for a seat on the fire commission serving Newman Lake.
Teresa Phelps said she has lived and worked in the Spokane area all her life.
“I have an interest in my community and supporting my community,” said Phelps, who is running for re-election as a fire commissioner for Spokane County Fire District 13.
Phelps ran unopposed for the position in 2017. This election, Phelps is opposed by Dennis Gleckler, who moved to Newman Lake in 2015 after a career in the FAA, according to the statement he submitted for the Spokane County voters guide.
Gleckler did not respond to interview requests from The Spokesman-Review.
For the past 26 years, Phelps has managed Otis Hardware in Otis Orchards where, she said, she has learned every side of the business. Before that, Phelps worked as an accountant.
Those skills, along with a desire to serve her community, have made her a well-rounded fire commissioner, Phelps said.
Gleckler wrote that he brings skills he learned through his career as an air traffic controller, which give him broad understanding to deal with many scenarios.
“Successful management or oversight is not always about being an expert, but being able to bring the experts together to achieve success,” he wrote for the county voters guide.
He did not list an experience in firefighting or working at a fire district.
Phelps shepherded the fire district through building and opening a new fire station.
“It has been an amazing transition,” Phelps said.
The district, located in eastern Spokane County, sold its old fire station, which helped fund projects like a burn building that will serve as a fire training apparatus for not only district firefighters, but crews from across the region.
The largely volunteer force took the pandemic in stride, Phelps said.
“They’ve just done what they were asked to do and never questioned it,” she said.
When asked about the COVID-19 vaccine mandate for medical professionals, Phelps said she’s disappointed in the requirement and knows it’s causing “hardship.”
“I’m fully vaccinated and I believe in the vaccine,” Phelps said. “I have to leave that as a personal decision that’s up to them.”
The current fire commission is made up of one firefighter, the wife of a volunteer and Phelps. That group, Phelps said, does a good job representing a variety of viewpoints.
If elected to another term, Phelps would like the department to continue its focus on training and retention. She said she is thrilled with the work of Fire Chief Stan Cooke.
She said he is frugal with the budget, personable and brings a new energy and legacy to the department.
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