Whitman County Gazette - Serving Whitman County since 1877

Candidates answer questions in Colfax


October 24, 2019

The "Meet the Candidate" session Oct. 16 at The Center in Colfax drew a large audience, and attendees were able to submit questions for the candidates.

Format called for the two candidates for each position to answer questions which were submitted by the audience. Each candidate was given an opportunity to respond to the same question which was relayed by the League of Women Voters moderator.

Council seat four incumbent Mark Mackleit and challenger Andrew Stewart were the first duo.

Stewart, co-proprietor of The Modern Plantsman business which opened in Colfax in February, said he felt they had problems getting the business started and later decided to run for city council. Mackleit has served on the council for 18 months after being appointed to the seat.

Their response to a question about allowing a marijuana vendor in Colfax contrasted. Mackleit said he opposed the idea, and Stewart said he believed it could be allowed as long as guidelines were followed.

The duo was asked what they considered pressing issues for Colfax, Mackleit said increased cost of operating the public safety department was a concern, and Stewart said he would like to see the city address homelessness, which he anticipates will be a problem here in the future.

Sarina Roberts and Ben Miller, both seeking the city council five seat being vacated by Albert Vorderbrueggen, were the next duo questioned.

One question posed to them was how they would resolve a city problem of city department heads exceeding their budgeted funds and subsequently draining funds intended for capital expenses.

Miller suggested the city institute a system or progressive discipline, and Roberts said she would like to see department heads consistently reviewing their budget.

Both of the candidates said they opposed having a marijuana outlet opening in Colfax.

The last set of candidates included two-term incumbent Jim Kackman in seat six, and challenger Dominic Villereal, co-proprietor of The Modern Plantsman.

Jeremiah Roberts, a candidate for seat seven, also sat in with Kackman and Villereal. Roberts is challenging incumbent Thomas Huntwork who did not attend the forum.

One new topic for the last trio was the city's reluctance to allow residents to keep chickens. Kackman said he has opposed the proposal in the past and will continue to oppose it for residential zones.

Villereal said he wouldn't be opposed to having chickens in town.

Their responses also contrasted on the marijuana question with Villereal saying he was not opposed. Kackman, who noted the city actually lacks power to ban marijuana vendors outright, said he opposed its legalization at the state and federal level.

Jeremiah, who challenged Mayor Todd Vanek for the mayor's seat four years ago, noted he had planned to challenge Vanek again in the event the incumbent sought a third term. Roberts said he decided to run for a council seat after Vanek stepped aside, and Jim Retzer announced his intent to run for mayor.

Roberts said he and his wife, Sarina Roberts, could be expected to discuss city issues at home if they were both elected to the council.

He added he doesn't expect they will reach an agreement on every issue that comes up.

The question was prefaced with the note that if both were elected, almost 30 percent of the city council vote would be in the same household.

Roberts told the audience he adheres to his former pledge of being "the guy that asks the hard questions" if elected to the council seat.


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