Hatch readies for elected role

RaeLynn Ricarte
Staff Writer

Brandon Hatch checked election results shortly after 8 p.m. on Nov. 2 and thought he had lost the race for the Position 4 seat on the Colville City Council to long-time incumbent Nancy Foll.
Returns with 6,900 ballots counted showed Foll with 53% of the vote to his 46.99%. But things started turning around on a second count three days later and by the next week, Hatch had pulled ahead. He ended up with 52.74% of the vote to Foll's 46.81%. She has served on and off the council for a total of 37 years.
“It is just humbling and I’ve got to do things right by the folks in Colville,” he said. “I fully expect to be accountable. If I screw up, I expect people to tell me.”
It is his first elected office and Hatch, 47, acknowledges that a steep learning curve lies ahead.
“Give me a little time before you throw me to the wolves,” he asks of residents. There's so much to learn — I'm excited and I'm nervous.”
Hatch sees addressing the challenge of homelessness as one of the first things the council needs to tackle.
At a recent community meeting organized by Cory Fitzgerald, a local business owner, to explore the issues involved with those living on the streets, both practical and legal, Hatch said it was clear there are two ideological camps. One side wants to find a way to get the homeless out of town and the other wants to provide them with housing.
Hatch believes in giving people in need “a hand up, not a handout that enables them,” so he is interested in finding ways to help homeless people who want to work on stabilizing their lives.
He also believes the city's first responsibility is public health and safety; and area residents and businesses should not have people defecating on their property, breaking into buildings for shelter, openly using drugs in public places, or living in vehicles along residential streets.
He has talked with people who have seen all these things happen and said his own daughter-in-law is afraid to take his grandson, 2, to the park because it “doesn't feel like a safe place anymore.” Hatch now feels the need to escort his family members to the park to ensure their safety.
The city cannot enforce anti-camping ordinances if there are not enough homeless shelter beds available, so the problem is “messy,” said Hatch. “It's obvious there are no easy answers. But I think we need to sit down, roll up our sleeves and find some long-term solutions. I'm looking forward to being able to ask the city attorney my own questions — like, 'Can we keep grown men and women off the swings at the park so that kids can use them?'”
Although he wants to deal firmly with people on the streets causing problems, Hatch believes the city needs to also have compassion for the homeless as human beings and find ways to help them get the resources they need. He said many people in town are worried that providing too many services will draw homeless people from across the state, and Colville will end up with the same crisis facing Seattle and many other cities by catering to them.
“I agree that we will always have homeless here; what kind of a society would we be if we held our noses in the air and ignored their needs?” he asked. “However, we have to do things in a way that doesn't open the floodgates.”
Hatch also wants to find out why some city streets have so many potholes that don't seem to get fixed.
“It drives me crazy,” he said.
Born and raised in Snohomish, Hatch and his wife, Terrah, brought their two children to Colville 15 years ago. He works as a technician for a phone company in Pend Oreille County.
He is pro-law enforcement and wants to have serious conversations with Colville Police Chief Robert Mesheshnik about what effect new laws approved in Olympia are having on the ability of officers to protect citizens, and if the city can do anything to help them in the job.
Hatch said he is walking into the elected role fully cognizant of the fact that citizens put him there to represent them. He plans to keep an open mind on issues and rely on his constituents to let him know what they want to see happen.
“I really want to see more people get in council meetings and the decision-making process,” he said. “That is really the only way to make a difference.”