It was a pretty quiet general election cycle locally. No big controversies, no overtly contentious races, no scores to settle, no high-profile electioneering. In fact, there was hardly any public campaigning or political advertising leading up to the Nov. 7 election.
The only campaign signs I saw were for mayoral candidate Bob DeHart in Winthrop. The apparent mayor-elect in Winthrop, Sally Ranzau, prepared campaign literature and did some door-knocking. Otherwise, the candidates seemingly left it to the voters to make their decisions based on whatever they already knew about the people on the ballot.
That said, there were some interesting outcomes and implications.
If her lead holds up — and it is likely to — Ranzau will be the fifth mayor Winthrop has had in the past 15 months, including Sue Langdalen, who resigned in September 2016. Langdalen was replaced by then-council member Anne Acheson, who resigned earlier this year after a public uproar over her firing of former Marshal Hal Henning. DeHart was the mayor pro tem, so he took over for a few weeks. Then longtime council member Rick Northcott was appointed to fill the mayor’s job. Northcott did not seek re-election to the council.
Acheson attempted to return to the council, but was defeated by Kirsten Vanderhalf in the race for Position 1.
By running for mayor, DeHart gave up his seat on the council. With the departures of Northcott, DeHart and council member Mike Strulic, who did not seek re-election, it will be a relatively inexperienced group of town leaders. When everyone takes their places around the table, the senior council member will be Ben Nelson — who was appointed to a vacant council seat in April of this year. (Ben is no relation to me that I know of, but the Nelson clan’s tentacles are spread far and wide.)
Vanderhalf was the most-recent appointee to the council. Joseph O’Driscoll, another appointee, has a little more time in office than Vanderhalf. New to the council will be William Kilby and Bill McAdow, who both ran unopposed.
At a table full of appointees or newly elected council members who did not face challengers, the two women on the council — Ranzau and Vanderhalf — can make the case that they were the only ones tested in the electoral arena and have the winning votes to back it up. And Vanderhalf was chair of the town’s Westernization Design Review Committee, so she has some experience in dealing with civic issues at the small-town level. Ranzau held elective office in Colorado before moving to the Methow, so is no stranger to answering the public’s expectations.
There were some interesting quirks in the Winthrop races. Ranzau supported Acheson’s actions as mayor. DeHart did not, and said he would hire Henning back if he could. Ranzau’s support didn’t seem to help Acheson, but DeHart’s support of Henning apparently didn’t help him all that much either.
By comparison, town government in Twisp looks stable and sedate. Mayor Soo Ing-Moody has built a reputation not only as an effective town leader but also as a regional representative for the Methow’s needs. There was no council turnover in the general election. Incumbents Alan Caswell and Aaron Studen were re-elected without opposition.
As for the Methow Valley School Board elections, at least there was some minor drama. Two-term incumbent Gary Marchbank faced challenger Twisp Police Chief Paul Budrow, and while Marchbank won it was good to have a choice between two strong candidates. That happens too seldom in local, county and regional elections.
The ballot proposal to slightly increase the county’s sales tax to support the juvenile detention facility, which is in need of upgrades, was a simple “yes” or “no” decision, and voters were decisive. The measure is winning easily. What many politicians don’t understand is that their constituents will support higher taxes if they are for a good cause and they can expect tangible results.
Now that the polls have closed for this year, things are about to get interesting. Methow Valley physician Ann Diamond is challenging State Rep. Cary Condotta for a District 12 seat in the state House of Representatives. She announced her candidacy a year before Election Day 2018 (and aren’t we all looking forward to that date?). District 12 covers a lot of territory and, unlike Condotta, Diamond is not well known in most of it. So she has a lot of work to do — and 12 months to do it.