Chuck Hafner, former principal at Central Valley and University high schools, will not be one of the applicants for the position once occupied by Rose Dempsey on the Spokane Valley City Council.
Instead, Hafner will bypass the March 4 deadline for aspiring replacements and look ahead to the August primary election where he will run for one of three seats on the city’s governing board. Positions currently held by Dean Grafos and Bill Gothmann will be on the ballot along with Dempsey’s retired chair – scheduled to be filled by an appointee selected by City Council next month.
Hafner, who filed his candidate paperwork last week, served as chairman of the Positive Change group in 2009 that ushered in five members of the current City Council, including Mayor Tom Towey, Deputy Mayor Gary Schimmels and Council Members Brenda Grassel, Dean Grafos and Bob McCaslin. Hafner said the perception that he would have the inside track with Positive Change representatives played a major part in his decision not to apply for Dempsey’s seat.
“That’s what people would think,” he said. “I want to run for office based on my own merits.”
Hafner said he would wait until June 11 to announce exactly where he would run. Gothmann, a member of the City Council since 2005 who often sided with Dempsey and has been consistently outvoted by Positive Change council members, has made his re-election campaign official. As of this week, Grafos – who unseated council appointee Ian Robertson in the November 2009 general election and is serving the remaining tenure of original Council Member Steve Taylor – had not yet made a decision on whether to file as a candidate.
Meanwhile, the appointment to replace Dempsey will not be made until March 29.
Dempsey’s stand-in will be guaranteed a council chair until Dec. 31 of this year, but must file for candidacy by June 10 to be in the running for another four years.
Hafner, who led a public relations effort to bring back Crime Check in 2008 and has been active in a number of zoning debates in his Ponderosa neighborhood, said the decision to run for City Council “is part of giving back to the community.”
“After 50 years here, I owe this community,” he said. “I think maybe I can add some dimension to the council that it doesn’t have right now.”
Since leading the Positive Change campaign in the summer and fall of 2009, Hafner said he rarely discusses policy with any of the five elected officials from the group.
“I don’t know if there’s been any issue where they’ve approached me for advice,” he said.
Last fall, Hafner was critical of what he described as the “negativity and contention” on the council as well as the trend of “two-three-two” voting with Towey, Grafos and Schimmels forming one pocket of opinion and McCaslin and Grassel representing another. Dempsey and Gothmann, meanwhile, had emerged as a more distant third faction.
With a leadership background that includes service with groups like Kiwanis, the Sheriff’s Community Oriented Policing Effort, Central Valley school board and Greater Spokane Valley Chamber of Commerce, Hafner said he would focus on approaches that stand for “common sense and fairness” while striving to open up dialogue at City Hall.
“I think I could be a catalyst for improved communication,” Hafner said. “If you don’t have that, it’s a detriment to the community. I think the contention they’ve had on the council has been unnecessary.”
Hafner said his campaign will also emphasize the importance of a balanced budget and maintaining a healthy financial reserve. Once mentioned as a potential candidate to replace the ousted Dave Mercier as Spokane Valley city manager, Hafner said many citizens are still uncertain about the duties of the mayor, City Council and the city manager.
“I think a lot of people still don’t understand what type of government we have,” he said.
Along with Positive Change members, Hafner opposed many aspects of the Sprague Appleway Revitalization Plan, but said there need to be some strategy to improve commerce along the corridor.
“I think the city should be doing everything it can to help businesses and bring in new businesses to the city,” he said. “Without that kind of tax revenue, we’re not going to go anywhere.”