Tim Archer, former Spokane fire union president, running for mayor as conservative alternative
Mon., March 27, 2023
In the upcoming Spokane mayoral race, most eyes have been turned toward incumbent Nadine Woodward and challenger Lisa Brown.
Brown is neither the only nor even the first candidate who filed hoping to lead the city in Woodward’s stead.
Former Spokane Firefighters Union President Tim Archer said he will be a strong conservative alternative to either the center-right incumbent or Brown, a staple in state Democratic politics.
“I believe the city is in need of strong, decisive leadership,” Archer said. “Mayor Woodward is not it. Lisa Brown would build us into Queen County to support King County.”
Archer, who lost his job in 2021 after 20 years with the Spokane Fire Department because approval for his religious exemption to the COVID-19 vaccine was rescinded, has said he felt betrayed by Woodward.
While other cities found ways to accommodate their firefighters, he and 19 other Spokane firefighters were forced from their jobs because of how the mayor enforced Gov. Jay Inslee’s vaccine mandate, he said.
“While I represented our heroes on our fire department, I saw our mayor refuse to answer calls from them and defer them to a hired West Side attorney instead,” Archer told The Spokesman-Review in a December interview.
Archer has lived in Spokane for almost his entire life, attending Eastern Washington University as a member of the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps and honored as a distinguished military graduate.
He served in the Army for seven years as an active duty officer. As a major, he served in roles as commander, executive officer, operations officer and protocol officer, he said. In those roles, he said he learned to defer to experts while remaining responsible for outcomes.
“Make no mistake, when you’re looking at the consequences for that action, do not blame a lawyer or someone who wasn’t elected or chosen to make those decisions,” he said.
After he left active duty in 2000, Archer remained a member of the U.S. Army Reserve until last summer, he said.
He joined the Spokane Fire Department in 2001 as a firefighter, noting that it seemed a natural progression after active duty.
“The fire department gives you a mission larger than yourself but you also get to stay in your hometown, so it’s conducive to raising a family,” Archer said.
After 10 years as a firefighter, Archer moved on to equipment operator for another 10 years.
He took over as president of the fire union in 2019, where he said he got a firsthand look at local politics, where disputes could flare because “leaders were unable to shake hands and work something out.”
Despite Woodward running in 2019 on improving public safety and homelessness, the city has deteriorated under her watch, Archer said.
“I worked the city streets during the 2008 recession, and things are worse now,” he said.
When firefighters first started administering Narcan to reverse opioid overdoses, Archer said the crew he worked with used it a few times a year. By the time he was pushed out of his job, it seemed to be a weekly occurrence.
He acknowledged that some of his concerns were a result of state-level legislation but argued Spokane’s mayor should be directly fighting that legislation through lobbying and litigation.
Archer praised the collaborative approach of former Mayor Mary Verner and the business acumen of former Mayor David Condon. Among recent local leaders, Archer said he was particularly inspired by the stubborn idealism of former Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich.
“I would take a very strong stance against the state like we saw from Ozzie,” Archer said. “I believe he had the right attitude. I believe Bob Ferguson, the state attorney general, has no business saying what’s right or wrong for our police department.”
He criticized Woodward’s pivot toward providing low-barrier shelter as a primary response to homelessness.
“The housing-first initiative pulls in lots of money to put a roof over their head, putting them in environments where they continue to do drugs,” he said.
Archer said a friend’s mother had overdosed and died in a low-barrier facility, and argued that it is difficult for someone to overcome an addiction when there’s drug use nearby.
“There is nothing wrong with requiring accountability of people receiving resources that are funded by your tax dollars,” he added.
He acknowledged the push for low-barrier shelters is at least in part a response to the 2019 Boise v. Martin appellate court decision, which requires cities to provide shelter space in order to ban homeless people from camping in public spaces.
“And I believe we need a strong enough city attorney who’s willing to take on Boise v. Martin, and who’s willing to take on the state,” he said.
“We should not be figuring out how to work around unreason,” he continued. “We need to be aggressively fighting it.”
Spokane city voters tend to lean more Democratic but Archer believes he can find a path forward as a full-throated conservative candidate.
“I’m going to thread that needle with a fire ax,” he said. “I believe enough Spokane citizens, regardless if they’re red or blue, are fed up with their money being wasted on things that don’t work.”
Local journalism is essential.
Give directly to The Spokesman-Review's Northwest Passages community forums series -- which helps to offset the costs of several reporter and editor positions at the newspaper -- by using the easy options below. Gifts processed in this system are not tax deductible, but are predominately used to help meet the local financial requirements needed to receive national matching-grant funds.
Subscribe now to get breaking news alerts in your email inbox
Get breaking news delivered to your inbox as it happens.