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Millwood incumbent points to recent town improvements; opponent says more needs to be done to boost public safety

UPDATED: Wed., Oct. 13, 2021

By Nina Culver For The Spokesman-Review

Two-term Millwood City Council incumbent Dan Sander is facing a challenge from political newcomer Becky Dean, who owns a hair salon.

Politics is a family affair for Dean; her husband, Matthew Dean, is running for Millwood mayor.

“We both just felt it was something we needed to do,” Dean said of her and her husband’s decisions to run for office.

Dean grew up in Millwood and graduated from the Glen Dow Academy.

She lived in Seattle for a few years before coming back to Millwood in 2005. She has owned her own salon, SunnyFay’s, since 2010. She works alone and doesn’t have any employees.

Dean said Millwood has changed since she was a child. There is a larger homeless issue and a rising drug problem, she said.

“I don’t feel safe sending my kids out to do what I was able to do as a kid,” she said.

Her interest in politics was sparked last year when she had some unexpected free time on her hands.

“I kind of started being aware of what’s going on in the world when I had to shut down,” she said.

Dean said Millwood needs to connect with the resources that Spokane and Spokane Valley have.

“Maybe we could connect with Catholic Charities or Union Gospel Mission to come out here and guide the homeless,” she said.

Dean said she believes that a lot of the current drug activity is tied to the homeless population.

“Maybe more of a police presence would be a deterrent,” she said.

An increased police presence could also help the problem of people speeding down her street, she said.

“That really bothers me, especially having kids,” she said.

Sander, who has been on the council for eight years, likes to point to all the improvements that have happened in Millwood in recent years. Improvements were made to Millwood Park, including parking, and the Millwood Trail opened. City Hall has a new roof. The city also has been updating the city’s water and sewer systems, and it has been completing crack-sealing work to better preserve city streets.

“I think those are good improvements,” he said.

Sander has lived in his Millwood home since 1978. He grew up nearby on Orchard Avenue.

“Sixty-nine years I’ve lived in the neighborhood,” he said.

He graduated from Gonzaga Prep and earned a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering and a master’s degree in civil engineering, both from Marquette University. Then he came back to Millwood.

“It was a good place to be, but there’s no place like home,” he said.

Sander, who is mostly retired, worked for a small consulting firm before working in the Washington State Department of Health’s drinking water program for 30 years. Since he retired, he’s been doing part-time consulting work and does water and wastewater training for operators.

The first time Sander ran for City Council, he was unopposed. There was a vacancy and several people suggested he run, Sander said. He attended some City Council meetings and decided to take the plunge.

Sander intends for this to be his last term on the council if he wins reelection.

“Another four years will be plenty for me,” he said. “I’ve enjoyed my time on the council.”

He said he is pleased that he has an opponent this time.

“Lately, there’s been more activism, more people interested in running,” he said. “I welcome that. That’s what elections are for.”

Still, he hopes to be able to complete one more term.

“I’ve got my council experience and all my experience with other communities,” Sander said. “I think I have a good feel, a good understanding of what cities can and can’t do.”

Dean said that if she’s elected, she’ll listen to the concerns of residents.

“I’ve lived in Millwood most of my life,” she said. “I think I would be a good representative for the residents of Millwood.”

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