By Laurelle Walsh
The Methow Valley’s only contested race for public office gets underway in Winthrop this week during the 18-day voting period before the Nov. 5 election. Two council seats are up for grabs in that town as well as the office of mayor.
Vern Herrst is challenging incumbent Rick Northcott for Position 1 on the Winthrop Town Council.
Herrst says the biggest issue of local concern for him is the question of combining the Winthrop and Twisp police departments.
“It would be totally wrong to combine the two,” Herrst says. “Winthrop has a viable police department; it’s fully manned and operating within budget. If we combined police departments we would end up with mediocre law enforcement for both communities.”
Herrst was a member of the Okanogan County Sheriff’s Posse for about six years until it was disbanded, he says. As a sheriff’s posse member Herrst served civil warrants, performed traffic and crowd control, and provided security at events such as the Okanogan County Fair.
A retired Navy Chief Hospital Corpsman, Herrst worked with the U.S. Marines for most of his career, and was stationed “all over the world. It was the best 22 years of my life,” he says.
Although Herrst has not held public office before, he served on Winthrop’s Westernization and Architectural Committee for about three years in the mid-1990s, during the time of the first rewrite of the Westernization ordinance, he says.
Herrst has lived in Winthrop for the last 15 years and operates a home-based embroidery business – V Bar J Enterprises – with his wife, Judy.
Seeking third term
Rick Northcott is running for his third term on the Winthrop council. He says that planning issues was the main reason he originally got involved in town politics in 2006.
“The biggest thing I’d like to see happen is completing the town’s comprehensive plan before we get another growth spurt,” Northcott says. “It’s an old comp plan and needs updating. People complained about potentially putting in a bunch of condos at Pine Near or above the ball field, but that’s how it’s currently zoned.”
Northcott, who has sat on the committee to investigate consolidating the Twisp and Winthrop police departments, says the policing issue is “on the back burner now,” because Winthrop is fully staffed, but “it would be nice to get something together.” Other council members have argued that “if it was going to work, Twisp would have to be the lead agency, but I’d rather see it be a district-wide police department,” Northcott says.
About a recent dustup over permitting a remodel at his home, Northcott says that he will have to pay an additional fee for constructing a living area instead of the storage space which he had originally applied for. His plans for a nightly rental “are on hold for now,” he says.
Northcott owns Rick Northcott Construction and lives in Winthrop with his wife, Lynn.
Newcomer Mike Strulic is running unopposed for Position 2 on the Winthrop council.
Strulic is concerned about Winthrop’s future, and feels that the downtown area has lost some of the energy it had when he first came to the valley 23 years ago. He’d like to see the Planning Commission, Town Council and chamber of commerce working together to “create a blueprint for what we actually want to get done in town.”
To encourage more public involvement, Strulic “would like to see an online community forum so that we could hear more people’s concerns. People with busy lives don’t have time to get to council meetings, and a lot of people have good ideas but don’t get heard,” he says.
Strulic feels that encouraging smaller square footage rentals downtown would allow younger people to afford a business in Winthrop. And completion of the Riverwalk trail will help build interest in downtown, he says.
“I have no political aspirations, but it’s my time to get in and help out,” Strulic says. He includes Ron Paul, Frank Zappa and Sitting Bull as his political influences.
Strulic lives in Heckendorn along with his partner, Tracy McCabe. He has a background in cooking, catering and construction, and is now in his second year as a ranch hand at Bear Creek Equestrian Center. “It’s a joy and an honest relationship working with horses all day,” Strulic says.
Current council member Sue Langdalen is running unopposed for the office of mayor. This would be Langdalen’s second round in the mayor’s chair; her first term was from 2006 to 2010.
Langdalen says she is interested in getting the Riverwalk trail put through to encourage more downtown vitality, but her biggest concern is the issue of consolidating the Twisp and Winthrop police departments.
“We need to do something about it, I’m just not sure what,” Langdalen says. “A few months ago I was all for combining the forces, but now the more I talk to people I hear, ‘You don’t want to lose your police department.’ For now I just need more information.”
The town’s mayor “is supposed to be listening to the people,” Langdalen notes. “I want to keep it simple and hear what people have to say.”
Public comments informed Langdalen’s vote last year to deny operating ATVs in Winthrop she says. “I myself own an ATV, but I heard people say they didn’t want them in town.”
Langdalen has been a teller at Farmer’s State Bank since 1986, and lives in town with her husband Jim.
Council Position 4, currently held by Langdalen, expires on Dec. 31; however, no one is on the ballot for that office. If Langdalen is elected mayor, she will fulfill her council duties until the end of the year, after which Position 4 will become vacant. The vacant seat will then be filled by the town through an appointment process.
Hill’s departure leaves Filer vying for Twisp council position
By Ann McCreary
The Nov. 5 general election ballot will show two candidates – Clayton Hill and Dwight Filer – for Twisp Town Council Position 5. But Hill
has moved out of town and is no longer a candidate.
Hill, who took a job in Olympia, resigned last month from his council seat after election ballots had gone to the printer, so his name remains on the ballot.
Filer, who is now unopposed for the council position, said he has chosen to continue campaigning to “earn” the votes of Twisp residents. His campaign signs are distributed throughout town and he is distributing campaign pamphlets.
A former Twisp Council member, Filer announced his intention to run for the council in May. He said he was motivated in part by Hill’s outspoken support for allowing all-terrain vehicles on Twisp streets when that issue was debated earlier this year.
Filer has served in a number of positions in local government, including the Twisp Council, 1996-1998; Planning Commission, 1999-2003; Parks and Recreation Committee, 2011-2012; and Tree City USA coordinator. He is currently a member of the town Planning Commission.
In campaign literature, Filer said he supports the ballot proposal to create an Okanogan County Transit Authority funded by sales tax revenues. He also supports creation of a Parks and Recreation district and the airport sports complex, and advocates a “pedestrian friendly” town.
Two other uncontested positions for Twisp Council are on the ballot – incumbents Bob Lloyd in Position 1 and Clint Estes in Position 2.