Council vacancy sparks interest of five

Published on Thu, Apr 5, 2001
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Council vacancy sparks interest of five

Five people want to fill the shoes of departing mayor John Hobberlin, and city council was more than willing to give them the third degree.

Leona Hattery, Terry Pilant, David White, Martin Conyac and Richard Myers all want to sit in the now empty seat; Arsenio Credo applied but later withdrew. Council interviewed them Monday night.

After each applicant was called to the table, council ran each through the same set of questions about consensus, management style, issues facing the city and vision for its future among others.

Blaine library board member Leona Hattery was first to approach the council. “You really need not just the consensus of people here on the council,” she said, “but consensus of the people of Blaine – the people you represent.” While the other candidates agreed, Terry Pilant had a somewhat different take. “I think consensus is important,” he said. “But in a group of six or seven people, you’re going to have a difference of opinion; I know I wouldn’t always be able to convince everyone of my side. If I feel very strongly about something, I wouldn’t hesitate to vote in the minority.”

Candidates told the council of their varying management styles; everyone said in different ways they try to make the best informed decisions they could except White, who asserted his style would be to change the rules. “My management style would be to throw out the book,” he said. “The rules and regulations have to be dismantled back to the core and rebuilt to the point where it is not deterrent to new business.”

Wastewater treatment was the most consistent in the candidate’s lists of the three most pressing issues Blaine faces in the next five years. “First and foremost is the wastewater treatment plant,” Pilant said. “I don’t think you can talk about growth whether it be light industrial or light manufacturing businesses until you solve that,” he said. He said the Lummi lawsuit and a close look at the airport are also important. White cited jobs as an important issue, while Conyac said border issues demand attention. White and Conyac both addressed growth, while Hattery and Myers both listed electricity. Overall, Hattery took a broad view of all the issues. “The main one is economic,” she said. “You take care of that, you take care of the rest.”

While all candidates’ visions for Blaine’s future included attracting businesses and new jobs, Conyac, Pilant and Hattery all cautioned against doing too much too fast. “My vision for the city would be to see it grow, but not rapidly,” Conyac said. “There are a lot of people that moved here because it’s kind of quiet.” Hattery agreed. “I would love to see the stores all filled up, but I don’t want to see a metropolis,” she said. “If (my grandchildren) decide to stay, I want them to have something to stay for.”

When confronted with the recurring issue of the appointed manager-council or elected mayor-council government, most candidates seemed happy with the manager system. “I’m actually comfortable either way,” Pilant said. “In the cities of Ferndale and Lynden (both have elected mayors), you have to hire a city administrator to take care of all the nuts and bolts; I think Gary Tomsic is doing a good job.” White, however, said he wanted to go to an elected mayor system because elected officials can be held more accountable for their decisions than a council-appointed manager.

All candidates said they would run in this year’s election if appointed except Hattery, who said she applied to the position instead of running because the short length of the appointment would help her decide if she wanted to run for a four-year term. “I want to see what it’s like without having to make a four-year commitment,” she said. “If I see that I like it and I’m doing a good job, I’d run for the four-year commitment.”

All candidates were asked the same questions at their interviews except White, who got a couple extras in addition to the ones everyone got. First, Dieter Schugt asked him to clarify White’s statement that he was the only person who had sufficient contacts to secure funding for a solution to Blaine’s many-faceted wastewater woes. White responded that his ties to the Republican Party, in which he has been active for 10 years, could be used to get money for a sewage treatment plant.

The second question regarded White’s letters to council and The Northern Light. “For some time now you have publicly castigated us for being braindead and stupid,” Ken Ely said. “How do you suppose we would feel about working with you on a daily basis?” “I don’t care how you approach me,” he said. “It means nothing at all; the only thing that matters to me is the people that have elected me to that seat.”

After interviewing the candidates, council held an executive session to discuss their qualifications; council will make its appointment at its regular meeting April 9.

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