Cheney Free Press -

Staff Reporter 

New faces head up ML council

Harbolt overtakes Kennedy in tight race


November 16, 2017

New Medical Lake Mayor Shirley Maike will take the lead on a largely new City Council in 2018.

The 20-year council member maintained the lead she earned on the Nov. 7 election night and will move one seat to the left on the dais to replace John Higgins, the retiring three-term mayor. She will lead a council that has three new faces, the make-up of that still, perhaps in flux.

“I think people have realized the city has been in good hands for the last 12 years under Mayor (John) Higgins,” Maike said. “We’re fiscally sound, we don’t have any pending issues, (and) our infrastructure’s pretty good.”

Her goal is to continue the success Higgins started, after outpolling challenger Michael Suniga with a 55.4 to 44.6 percent advantage.

The words of Yogi Berra, “It’s never over until it’s over,” may have not been more true to describe the “ninth-inning rally” Tony Harbolt used to overtake Don Kennedy for Council Position No. 4. According to Kennedy, 36 ballots arrived at the Election’s office that workers believe would not be able to be run through the counting machines, and therefore require a hand count.

Harbolt turned a 34-vote deficit into a slim 454-450 lead as of Nov. 13, but another small number of Medical Lake-specific ballots were discovered and were to be counted Nov. 15. Either way a likely automatic recount appears to be in the future just to make sure.

Others claiming victory included John Merrick in Position 2 where he ousted incumbent Elizabeth Rosenbeck with 57 percent of the vote. Ted Olson in Position 5 topped Gary Plumlee with 58 percent approval.

Out of five positions there are three new members. Incumbents John Paikuli in Position 1 and A.J. Burton in Position 4 were reelected. Both originally ran unopposed in the August primary but Paikuli had general election competition from write-in candidate Monica Manza, who he defeated handily.

“I look forward to working with all of them,” Maike said. “I think they have the city’s best interest at heart; I think they will make a commitment as all of us do to working with each other collegially to take care of the city’s business.”

Maike encourages more citizen involvement and interest in what goes on in City Hall, and council chambers.

“That’s how I got on council, many times I was the only visitor outside of staff,” Maike said. “When a vacancy came up, the mayor at the time asked if I’d like to come to this side o the dais.”

One of Maike’s specific goals is to see a citizens volunteer group fully come together. “I appreciate people taking me up on my suggestion,” with news that a new organization has begun to take shape.

“I’m excited by the changes the voters have elected for our City Council and Mayor this year,” Paikuli said. “Influence was definitely felt by action groups such as Reimagine Medical Lake and the Suniga Caucus working together for change. I will be interested to see how campaign promises will be met without raising taxes.”

Newcomer Merrick said, “I don’t plan to know everything, I know the direction I would like to see the city go and move in, and to keep it prosperous. I was speaking to what the people wanted.”

As he takes his first stab at public office, Merrick added “My biggest push, as I said through the whole campaign season was we’ve got to work on bringing our fire department up to par.” That means a new fire station at some point in time, he hopes.

Olson, who has long been involved in civic activities, used his name recognition and a lot of energy to get in the minds of voters.

“Me knocking on almost every door in Medical Lake,” Olson said was his most effective strategy, along with leaving fliers when no one was home.

While that strategy might be considered old-fashioned, “It was effective,” Olson said.

As for one of his goals, it’s cleaning up things in the city code when possible.

Olson said he has spoken with members of the Planning Commission to suggest examining rules and regulations and weed out those which are not being enforced.

“Let’s simplify things,” he said. “There’s no use in having a bunch of deadwood.”

The group will meet officially for the first time Jan. 2, 2018 and will be sworn in prior to that at a date yet to be decided.

Paul Delaney can be reached at


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