Know Your Candidates 2021

Citizens of Deer Park have received their pamphlets and ballots in the mail for the August 3rd Primary Election, which will decide which two candidates from each race will move forward in the General Election. 

The Deer Park Gazette sent 5 Questions to all of the Deer Park mayoral and city council candidates. There are ten candidates on the ballot for the three positions open this election. The questions range from a candidate’s desires for our fair city to law enforcement and city growth. The goal was to have each candidate answer the same questions to give voters a better idea of which candidate best aligns with their views. 

Questions were sent to all ten candidates for the mayoral and city council positions; 7 responded. 

Hargis Adams, Mary Babb, and Henry Lever did not respond. (Hargis Adams has withdrawn from the race; however, his name will still appear on the ballot.)

Please note, all answers sent in by the candidates were kept confidential from all other candidates.  Only the writers of this article had access to the answers prior to publication.

  1. What is the most important issue to you and why?

Tim Verzal (Incumbent – Mayoral) – The most important issue to me is public safety.  We are a growing community, and the additional influx of citizens creates new concerns that we need to address in order to remain a safe and productive city.

Hazel McGillivray (Mayoral) –  My top priority as mayor is what I call “Economic Renovation” , since renovation is what I do. Most everyone knows just how much Deer Park is growing; not too many realize how much we have “shrunk”. Over the years, we have lost so many economic, recreation and entertainment commercial enterprises.  A partial list includes hotels, 2 grocery stores, a bowling alley, a hospital, a skating rink, a movie theater, a drive-in theater, and much more. It would be my priority to encourage some of these enterprises to return – instead of progress, let’s get to work regaining all we have lost. 

Billy Costello (Position 1) –  Outside of increasing our law enforcement presence, the most important issue to me is being strategic and smart about the growth over the next four years while keeping the small town feel that makes Deer Park great. The growth is inevitable and we need to be able to work together as a council in creating the infrastructure and make policy that is in the best interest of our citizens. We also need to do this to entice the businesses needed to help meet the demand of an increased population.

Jason Upchurch (Position 1) – The most important issue to me is to fight to get Deer Park its own local police force. The safety of our citizens cannot be stressed enough and currently citizens of Deer Park do not believe that the current coverage we receive by the Sheriff’s office is sufficient. Speeding, drag racing, property theft are all happening and the citizens don’t feel that anything is being done about it. With a local police force we could afford more coverage for the same price and actually have the ability to address the issues our citizens have.

Richard Schut (Incumbent – Position 3)  – Government transparency and accessibility is the most important issue to me. Discussion needs to happen at city council meetings, not behind closed doors. City Council meetings need to be streamed online. Your elected officials need to be accessible to you in ways you most often communicate including email and text messages. Throughout the pandemic almost every government body has used video conferencing for public meetings, but not Deer Park. The costs for video conferencing are very reasonable and anyone that wants to listen via their phone can still do so. There is good reason for Deer Park to do this. 

Heather Newsom (Position 3) – The most important issue to me is public safety. There are new concerns regularly that need to be addressed to keep our community safe.

Mike Achurra (Position 3)  – I believe safety is the most important issue. If our citizens feel unsafe nothing else matters. A problem that could be rectified or on the way to rectified quite easily.

  1. What would you like to see happen with law enforcement in Deer Park?

Tim Verzal (Incumbent – Mayoral) – I am currently in negotiations with the sheriff’s department in an effort to bring in an additional nighttime deputy.

Hazel McGillivray (Mayoral) –  “Citizen Security” is high on my list.  We are, thankfully a very safe community.  Most of our crime is of the “property and nuisance” variety.  For now.  However, real or imagined, there is a perception that our current policing provided by the Spokane County Sheriff Department is not adequate to our needs,  or “sustainable” to use a common buzzword.  There is quite a bit of public support to form our own police department.  I want to seriously investigate all the options available, so that we may choose the best one for our community, both for now and in the future.

Billy Costello (Position 1) –  As the son-in-law of a fallen officer, I have a tremendous amount of respect for our law enforcement. With the projected growth of our town, we need a greater police presence. After doing thorough research, my thoughts are that the best way to do this is to increase the presence of the Spokane County Sheriff’s Department. The cost to train a new officer is upwards of $250,000 and takes about 18 months before they are on patrol. Let’s also not forget the current political climate that we are in and how hard it is to find people interested in law enforcement today.

Jason Upchurch (Position 1) – Deer Park budgets almost a million dollars a year for 2 deputies. Prosser, WA budgets $1.9 million for 17.5 full time officers. Colville budgets $1.9 million for 12 full time officers (and 8 volunteers). We are not getting a good deal! The first year I’d like to start with a chief of police and a sergeant and a couple of other officers while we add equipment (cars, offices, etc.) to keep our costs down. Then we can slowly add a couple more officers to our force over the second year or so. Let’s do this while crime is still low.

Richard Schut (Incumbent – Position 3)  – This issue needs to be brought to the voters to decide. Right now Deer Park has an extremely low crime rate, however as the city grows it is going to take a greater investment to keep it safe. The current contract with the Spokane Sheriff costs $880,000 per year, that is as much as many cities current budgets for their own police departments. That contract with the Sheriff has a built-in 3% increase every year. Creating a police department will not be cheaper, but it also won’t be that much more expensive.

Heather Newsom (Position 3) – What I would like to see with Law Enforcement would be looking into what is needed to continue safely protecting our community. Do we need our own department or additional staffing from the Sheriffs department.

Mike Achurra (Position 3)  – I think we are in decent shape at the moment regarding police. I do, however, realize that in the next 5 to 10 years our needs will become much greater. Preparing for that inevitable need is important

  1. What is Deer Park missing and how would you change that?

Tim Verzal (Incumbent – Mayoral) – Deer Park is missing – and would greatly benefit from – recreational opportunities.  After-school activities, entertainment, and community-building events can be added by supporting small businesses that would work to create these opportunities.

Hazel McGillivray (Mayoral) –  First, what should our mayor’s leadership role should be for our city?  She should be focused on encouraging, facilitating, “asking the questions” and administration.  With that in mind, the “how” answers itself – I would encourage commercial amenities and services to consider Deer Park; I would facilitate any information they would need; “ask the questions”; then assist in the administration city regulations and government.  As for what’s missing, I would first determine what we have “lost” over the decades, “ask the questions” regarding what smart progress we should implement from there, without sacrificing our community feel and our “small town charm”.

Billy Costello (Position 1) –  The most common answer to this I get from residents is an additional grocery store. I agree that we need an additional grocery store as well as more businesses within our city limits. We are missing the businesses needed to provide the goods and services to meet the needs of our growth. As a council, we need to create the infrastructure and policies to make businesses want to come here. We also have the opportunity to team up with our Chamber of Commerce and find ways we can help each other bring in the businesses needed.

Jason Upchurch (Position 1) – Deer Park is missing a second grocery store! People want variety and competition without having to drive to Spokane to get it. On day one I would start contacting grocery store chains to let them know our citizens want another store and ask what we might be able to do to encourage them to come. Sometimes all you have to do is ask people to come and they will. I’d also like to see a couple other restaurants, a hotel, some manufacturing businesses to fill out the industrial park and about 14 more auto part stores.

Richard Schut (Incumbent – Position 3)  – Deer Park is missing a number of businesses that it had in the past. We need to attract businesses to Deer Park and create jobs locally. To do that, we need to have a vision for Deer Park, work with local non profit organizations, and increase city beautification efforts. This will require an effort of city staff, the Mayor, City Council, and individuals working as a team and advocating for our small town.

Heather Newsom (Position 3) – Deer Park is missing more businesses. Both recreational, activities for children and families alike. We also need more stores, e.i. Another grocery store.

Mike Achurra (Position 3)  – It is not what’s missing as much as what needs to be renovated. The skate park needs a lot of work, it wasn’t done correctly to begin with and age is only taking its toll. Simple beautification projects for the downtown area are a great idea – but that falls more under that chamber of commerce responsibilities. I would be happy to pitch in any labor skills needed.

  1. How do you plan to involve residents in the city’s decision-making process?

Tim Verzal (Incumbent – Mayoral) – I plan to involve residents in the decision-making process of Deer Park by utilizing a committee of citizens who will choose and vote upon city additions and changes for our parks and social areas.  I created this committee three years ago and am working to continue building and supporting it in its endeavors.  There is also an additional committee working to improve the playground equipment at Country Club Park.

Hazel McGillivray (Mayoral) –  I would like to address the technological aspect of communication with a better internet presence, a well-designed and user-friendly city website, investigating infrastructure improvements including a fiberoptic network, and encouraging e-mail communication.  I would encourage city representatives to be “locally available” at some maintained schedule, example, an hour at a coffee shop after church on Sundays, or Master’s Brewery every other Wednesday evening.  If the representatives maintain a “locally available” schedule, citizens who aren’t “tech friendly” can contact and talk to their representatives. City council meetings are too intimidating for most people.  We should make the effort to be available.

Billy Costello (Position 1) –  It’s 2021, there is a plethora of ways to communicate and involve the residents in the decision-making process. Any decision I make will be well researched with data analysis and by getting input from residents. I will have multiple forms of ways to listen to our residents such as social media, email, phone, grabbing a cup of coffee, being flagged down in town, and at town hall meetings to name a few. My favorite politician of all time is Ronald Reagan (The Great Communicator) and I hope to follow his example in my communication skills with the people I represent.

Jason Upchurch (Position 1) – For citizens to be more involved, Deer Park needs to have better than 1980s technology. The council members have no email and the council meetings are not live-streamed. Some council members fought against bringing in a fiber network and shot down using laptops and Zoom during the pandemic while elementary school kids mastered it. We need to realize that almost every single person older than 15 has a super computer in their pocket and they engage everything through digital means. If we want citizen involvement we need to implement digital solutions: email, live streaming, TextMyGov alert systems and more. 

Richard Schut (Incumbent – Position 3) – Making myself accessible to residents is really important. When issues come up I seek out a variety of opinions from residents. Often the most valuable insights come from people with differing points of view. Everyone needs to be able to see what is going on in the city. City Council meetings are open for everyone to listen in on. The city should have a direct messaging system allowing residents to subscribe to notifications on the subjects that are important to them. Thereby giving residents the opportunity to be informed and speak with members of the council ahead of meetings.

Heather Newsom (Position 3) – Encourage them to come to city council meetings, make their voice heard. Talk to other community members.

Mike Achurra (Position 3)  – I would continue to tell everyone I know we’re coming to contact with when the city council meetings are and give interested parties a recap of said meetings I would also listen to the needs and wants of my constituents and research we can be done to make change happen.

  1. What goals do you hope to achieve during your term?

Tim Verzal (Incumbent – Mayoral) – I plan to aid in implementing more neighborhood involvement.  Block watches, higher quality playground equipment and having citizens more involved in the future formation of the community will only help grow our connections to each other and our city.

Hazel McGillivray (Mayoral) –  Communication: there is a perception that city government and sheriffs are unresponsive and uncommunicative  We need to reach and be available to our citizens. I would facilitate our community along the path to a better, vibrant, and economically stable future.  We have so many natural resources, so many opportunities, and should be capitalizing on our options. I would encourage streamlining our government processes and implementation and administration of our services.  I believe that leadership should not become stale, and I encourage not only the success of our citizens, the surrounding area, and of all those who will come after me.

Billy Costello (Position 1) –  I was raised on always returning things in better condition than when I received them. If I got the honor to represent the great citizens of Deer Park, my holistic goal is that this city is in a better spot at the end of my term than it is today. The way I can do this is to listen to the citizens, research issues, and act in way that is best for all of us. No matter how some of us may disagree on things, we are all “Deer Parkians” and we can accomplish great things if we work together.

Jason Upchurch (Position 1) – I have 3 Ps I want to get done: Police, Parks, and Produce (meaning a grocery store). After police and grocery stores, we need to invest in our parks – our kids need more things to do and investing in recreation at our parks is one of the easiest ways to serve them. It would be nice to have a brand new concrete skate park over by the sports complex that doesn’t look like a prison and is open dawn to dusk. We should finish up the bike park behind the library and add toys to some of the other parks.

Richard Schut (Incumbent – Position 3) – My goal is to work effectively with the Mayor, City Council Members, and city staff, to guide the city through the inevitable changes. We need to defend our small town feel, plan for the future infrastructure needs, and be prepared to adapt as new technology impacts our city. There is a lot of change that is going to happen very quickly in the near future. I want to make sure that affordable housing is available for our residents as each generation seeks the dream of home ownership.

Heather Newsom (Position 3) – The goals I hope to accomplish are acknowledging we are a growing community and start us on a path of being prepared and ready for our expansion. Not waiting until it’s to late to have the things a large community needs.

Mike Achurra (Position 3)  – My main goal is to leave this already great City better than it found me. Also to always listen to all points on each topic. No council member should arrive at a decision before hearing all the facts. 

For more information about each candidate go to the voting pamphlet at: DPGazette.com/pamphletaug2021

Save the dates!

  • July 26, 2021 – Deadline to receive new registrations and voter updates online and by mail for the August 3, 2021, Primary Election.
  • August 3, 2021 – 8:00 PM deadline for in-person registration and voter updates for the August 3, 2021, Primary Election. Register in-person at a Voter Service Center.

To register to vote online, go to: DPGazette.com/register2vote

People can find more information at:

Spokane County Elections Office: 

Phone:  509-477-2320  

Website: SpokaneCounty.org/4578/Elections

Washington Secretary of State office: 

The Deer Park City Council meetings are always open to the public; not only will you hear from city council members and the mayor, but you will also get updates from city supervisors, the airport manager, economic developers, and others who are acting on behalf of the city and its citizens. The public is welcome to introduce topics, but they are asked to submit these topics in writing to City Hall the Wednesday before the next council meeting. 

City Council Meetings

  • Every 1st and 3rd Wednesday of every month at 7pm.  

Minutes from past meetings, as well as the current night’s agenda, can be viewed and downloaded at: CityofDeerParkWa.com

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