Retired Coeur d’Alene police officer, former North Idaho College board member and incumbent City Councilwoman Christie Wood is preparing to defend her council seat against a far-right political newcomer in Tuesday’s election.
Wood, who was first elected to the council in 2019, has a long history of service in the Coeur d’Alene community. She is the president of the Kootenai County Human Rights Task Force, a city parks and recreation commissioner and a member of Veterans of Idaho for Voters.
“I’m just really invested in my community,” Wood said. “I just love being a part of the decision-making in my community. I want to contribute.”
She faces challenger Brian Winkler, who did not respond to requests for an interview.
She was elected to the North Idaho College board in 2004, but stepped down last year after far-right candidates took over and controversies began over hiring and firing employees. The college has been sanctioned and is at risk of losing its accreditation, largely because of the actions of the board.
At the time Wood stepped down, the board was at a stalemate, and Wood knew it would be up to the state to appoint her successor. She hoped her decision would give the board a chance to shed its dysfunction.
“We were in deadlock,” she said. “The college was being caught in the middle of the chaos.”
Wood has teamed up with fellow Councilman Dan Gookin to campaign together this election, even though the two once had a public feud during which Gookin called her Sergeant Cupcake.
Wood said it has been easy to work with Gookin, even if they don’t always agree.
“I’ve been able to work very well with Dan and the rest of the council,” she said. “We’ve learned we can work well together. We don’t always agree, but we know how to govern.”
Like Gookin, Wood is worried what will happen to the city if far-right candidates are able to gain a majority. Those candidates, including her opponent, have been endorsed by the Kootenai County Republican Central Committee.
“We know we’ve got a big target on us by the Republican Central Committee,” she said. “They can’t point to one flaw with the city. It’s really a personality thing. They don’t care for Dan and I.”
Wood said the KCRCC seems bent on causing chaos in local government, and she doesn’t want that to take root in the City Council.
“I don’t want a bunch of partisan hacks coming in and making life difficult for everyone,” she said. “Unfortunately, they don’t come up with qualified people who have experience.”
One issue is that some of the far-right candidates have indicated that they want to block certain groups from using city parks for public events, most notably the Pride Parade. That’s not legal, Wood said, and if that happened, community groups would sue the city and win.
“They really think they can impose their will, and that would be an expensive thing for the taxpayers,” she said.
Wood said she knows that her opponent has lived in the Coeur d’Alene area for only a little over a year. She said he often complains about 5G internet even though he uses it to work remotely, and he rails against Coeur d’Alene becoming a “smart city,” though Wood says that’s not something that will happen.
“I just feel like he’s looking for a wedge issue,” she said. “He’s a transplant that’s not invested in the community at all.”
One of the KCRCC’s targets has been the Coeur d’Alene Library, with the group urging voters to “save the children” and install their chosen candidates to the board of trustees. The group has complained that the library is allowing children to access pornography, which Wood said isn’t true. She said she’s tired of the KCRCC calling librarians pedophiles and groomers.
“There isn’t anyone who would advocate for porn in a library,” she said.
It is up to parents to decide what their child can read, and the KCRCC seems interested in controlling access to books and eliminating parental rights, Wood said.
“I just don’t agree with that at all,” she said.
As a former police officer, she also takes issue with Kootenai County Sheriff Bob Norris, who turned on his body camera and visited local libraries looking for books he believed were inappropriate. He told The Spokesman-Review that a citizen gave him two books from the Post Falls Library, which is not part of the Coeur d’Alene Public Library, that he believes are too sexually explicit, so he’s refusing to give them back.
“It’s not the job of law enforcement to peruse the library for books they don’t like,” Wood said.
A key issue facing the city is growth. The city has been booming the last couple of years, and Wood said it’s important to be deliberate about growth.
“We’re working through the growth issue,” she said. “Growth is fine as long as it’s steady and planned.”
Wood agreed with Gookin on concerns about the Coeur Terre development, which proposes up to 2,800 living units on 440 acres. She and Gookin voted not to annex the land into the city and rezone it to city residential and commercial, but were overruled by the majority of the council. Wood and Gookin expressed concerns about the density of the development and the negative impact on an adjacent neighborhood.
Wood said she knows and respects the law, and tries to do her best to serve the Coeur d’Alene community.
“I think citizens know me well,” she said. “They know I’m going to lead with honesty and integrity, clearly with the taxpayers in mind.
“I’m not swayed by any political organization. I’m not owned by any political organization.”
On his campaign website, Winkler said he grew up in the San Francisco Bay area and played water polo while attending the University of California, Davis. He served three years in the U.S. Marine Corps as a finance officer. He reports working for IBM in Nebraska before taking a job with Amazon Web Services. He moved to Coeur d’Alene in October 2021.
He began hosting the “Idaho Speaks” podcasts to interview “local patriots” to give them “a voice against a biased media.” He said he’s trying to prevent Coeur d’Alene from becoming the next San Francisco or Seattle.
“I have seen how leftist policies have ruined cities and turned them woke,” he wrote. “I am committed to preserving Coeur d’Alene’s natural beauty, conservative character and family values.”
He said local politicians, despite being overwhelmingly Republican, aren’t conservative enough.
“Conservatives tend to be absent from local politics, and in that void socialists have dominated the ranks of local governments,” he wrote on his website.
Winkler also writes that he grew up in a Christian community with a library “filled with the Classics.”
“We should preserve the innocence of children, and support for the nuclear family should be an unquestioned cornerstone of our community,” he wrote.