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Latah mayoral candidates lay out plans for community development

Oct. 13, 2021 Updated Thu., Oct. 14, 2021 at 4:39 p.m.

By Jayce Carral For The Spokesman-Review

Latah’s two mayoral candidates share similar concerns but different perspectives of their small town .

After living in Latah for 20 years and sitting on the town council for five years, Carole Meissner said she knows how the town operates and what it needs.

But Brianne Howe, 35-year-old mobile notary and process server, said she thinks Latah’s political leadership needs a fresh perspective.

“There is a general sense of community in this town,” Howe said. “It’s a quiet town, and people look out for each other.”

Latah is a small farming community in southeastern Spokane County with a population of 187, according to the 2020 Census.

Meissner, a 78-year-old antique business owner, wants to continue projects the town council has already begun, like creating an emergency shelter and installing a second well system. The council is using money from Latah’s COVID-19 relief package to purchase a generator and turn the town hall into an emergency shelter.

Winters in Latah can be harsh, Meissner said, so she also wants to possibly purchase a snowmobile for emergencies. A few winters ago, the town was completely snowed in and cut off from all resources, including medical services, and one elderly man died.

“We need some kind of warning system, and that we’re working on.” she said. “Especially because it gets quite snowy in these areas … and fires … they can come through your town quite fast.”

Howe said she wants to look into getting better plowing equipment for Latah’s maintenance man. She also wants to see if it is possible to get a town marshal because it takes upward of 40 minutes for deputies from Spokane County Sheriff’s Office to arrive.

Howe said she knows the council has ongoing projects but thinks communication and transparency are lacking. She wants local leadership to engage more with the town by including the council’s previous meeting minutes and an agenda for the next meeting with the town’s monthly newsletter, which is sent to residents with their water bill.

“The town has not really been informed unless you go to the council meetings,” she said. “In the past, they used to attach the meeting minutes and tentative agenda, which would give you an opportunity as a resident to either write in or call … and voice your opinion on something.”

Meissner said she also wants to attach more information to the newsletter to help encourage residents to attend council meetings.

Latah needs everything any other town needs, just on a smaller scale, but everything in government takes time, Meissner said. It took her three years to reinstall lights in the park.

“It’s really hard to get things done very quickly. I come from a business world … businesses are quicker,” she said. “With government, it takes us this approval and that approval.”

Meissner has been trying to get a crosswalk sign installed on the street next to Latah’s post office where state Highway 27 passes through. She said drivers tend to ignore the 25 mph speed limit.

The county restriped the crosswalk, but declined to install a sign unless an accident had occurred their in the past 25 years, Meissner said.

“I’d like to know that kids are safe in crossing the street,” she said.

The post office has become the default place for residents to take extra food and supplies, Howe said. She wants to create a gathering place like a community garden or farmer’s market to foster community relationships.

Because of her history of working with nonprofits, Howe said she knows there are small town grants that can help expand Latah’s budget to fund things like street maintenance and elderly assistance.

As part of her campaigning, Howe has been going door to door to find out what the residents want from their local government.

“I really want to engage the community, have fiscal responsibility and have community input,” she said.

Because the town has fewer than 200 residents, campaigning is not based on financial capabilities but connections within the community and encouraging a higher voter turnout.

“I hope that I’m given the chance to make the town better,” Meissner said. “I guess that’s always everybody’s hope when they’re running for mayor.”

Latah’s current mayor, Teresa Galvin, is not running again.

Howe and Meissner previously ran against each other in 2019 for a seat on Latah’s town council when Meissner won 43-21.

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