(By Brandon Hansen/Chewelah Independent)
Knauss, Belknap and Wantland square off in 2017 election…
This year’s election looks to have a busy ballot in the Chewelah’s mayor race as incumbent Dorothy Knauss is facing two challengers in Bob Belknap and David Wantland.
The race is a bit of an exception to normal small town politics. According to a study by Rice University’s Center for Local Elections in American Politics, more than half of mayoral races from 2000 to 2016 went uncontested. In that study, three percent of mayoral races had nobody running.
Chewelah Mayor Dorothy Knauss is no stranger to city government. First elected in 2013, Knauss has served over 20 years as a city employee beginning as a city clerk, then clerk and treasurer, city administrator and utilities bookkeeper.
Bob Belknap grew up in Chewelah and spent over 30 years working for the City of New York retiring from his position as Director of Financial Systems in 2003.
Wantland is retired after growing up in Oregon and then acquiring an extensive business background in the state of California.
Wantland served on the Advisory Council for the California Govornors Small Business Advocate and as a staTe legislative chair for the California Staffing Professionals. He said he was also an active member of the California Chamber of Commerce Small Business Committee.
This is the first time that Knauss is facing re-election after being elected four years ago. In a statement to The Independent, Knauss said the biggest issues facing Chewelah are a growing drug problem, the need for jobs, broadband and securing the future of the airport near the golf course.
She also said that working with the Spokane Tribal council for development of their lands south of town and the possible addition of a motel is another big topic along with meeting future state mandates for current resources such as storm drainage and asset management. Updating infrastructure like roads, water, sewer delivery and collection systems is also something that the city will be facing as well. The city also faces the fact that five city employees who have put in 25+ years of service are coming up on retirement in the next four to five years.
“I began my term with a promise to the citizens that I would give 100 percent as mayor and I believe I have done that,” Mayor Knauss said in a statement to The Independent. “I always try to look at the big picture and imagine how an action might affect the population as a whole, rather than satisfy a select group.”
Knauss said she feels she has been a good leader for the city staff and has developed a team attitude. During her 3.5 years as mayor she said she has started the Mayor’s Youth Award, the annual Students in Government exercise and worked on listening sessions for the public to talk to the council in open session as well as attending and speaking many community events.
Knauss told the Independent that she has over 24 years of experience in all phases of municipal government, including training in Washington state law regarding budgeting, accounting and reporting. She also said she has a good working relationship with current state legislators and state agency officials.
“I know that a stable government is the cornerstone of economic development, so I have worked hard to mesh city government with civic groups and activities,” Knauss said.
Knauss also represents the city on the Association of Washington Cities Board of Directors, is the co-chair of the Small Cities Advisory Committee for all of Eastern Washington, is a trustee for the Association of Washington Cities Employee Benefit trust which self-insures over 25,000 employees and dependents. She also serves on the governing board of TEDD and Northeast Washington Rural Resources while being an active member and former president of the NE Washington Mayor’s Association.
With over 30 years of experience in government Belknap is offering a platform of open government that he feels will restore public trust, help to stabilize City finances, and promote community development. He feels the current administration has fallen short on its promises of transparency, accessibility, and fiscal responsibility.
Wantland comes in with an extensive business background in the state of California serving in director positions for Erx Logistics, ProSource Distribution Services, Homestead House Furniture, and Solvere. Davlin Service was also his consulting firm.
He has prior experience in computer systems development and implementation, large knowledge of the furniture and fixture industry and understanding of parts distribution for heavy construction that includes extensive government and export involvement.
Wantland feels that Chewelah’s friendly rural atmosphere and lifestyle must be preserved. He feels that this shouldn’t be lost to enable growth.
“I have become increasingly concerned over, what appears to be, a growing sense of disconnectedness between the current administration and our town’s citizenry,” Wantland said in a statement to The Independent. “Property is declared surplus and sold, new facilities are built, new recycle fees are added and sewer rates are increased, all, with little to no explanation that was heard and or understood by our friends and neighbors.”
Wantland said that Chewelah is in danger of just becoming “any town USA” and that cities like Chewelah are made up of people and not just ordinances, departments, regulations and elected officials.
He said that after speaking up in a May council meeting in opposition of the enhanced Noise Ordinance, he was contacted and asked to consider running for Mayor.
Wantland said he wants to see a leadership revitalization and new fresh perspectives brought in.
“Many, if not all, of the issues and concerns I have heard in my conversation around town may well be more in line with being symptoms of problems,” Wantland said. “The real issues that are actually causing these concerns have not been ferreted out.”
The city shouldn’t have the “this is the way we always do it” baggage, Wantland added, saying that actions should follow a vision and mission statement to “Preserve Chewelah’s Friendly Rural Atmosphere and Lifestyle,” which he said will bring about lasting change to make us a better community.
Wantland said he feels that Chewelah needs a mayor that is an outside the box thinker and a strong experienced administrator.
“My extensive experience in turning around challenged operations led to my own consulting business and I was certified by the Society of Human Resources Management (SHRM) as a Senior Professional in Human Resources.”
Currently Wantland serves on the Elder Board at Addy New Life Christian Center and also as the church’s Administrative Pastor.
The primary in the state of Washington will be held on Aug. 1 while ballots will be mailed out on July 14. The general election will be held on Nov. 7 and ballots will be mailed out on Oct. 20.