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EDITORIAL: Tribute to a courageous public servant

| January 8, 2023 1:00 AM

When Bruce Mattare takes the oath of office tomorrow, he would do well to embrace some of the traits of the man he’s replacing.

Last May, Mattare beat incumbent Kootenai County Commissioner Chris Fillios in the Republican primary. Mattare is his own man with his own thoughts as one of the three top county administrators, and the qualities he brought to the table as a candidate clearly resonated with a majority of Republican voters in the spring and with all voters again in November. He has earned the job he’ll swear tomorrow to do to the very best of his ability.

For Fillios, who was sworn in exactly six years ago tomorrow, his tenure as a commissioner ends with a loss to Mattare but a win where it matters most. For the full two terms of his service, one of them a two-year term, Fillios executed his duty with courage and integrity.

Fillios served during a time when his Republican Party changed. Like fellow commissioner Bill Brooks, Fillios fell out of favor with those in control of the party locally because he wasn’t radical enough. Fillios was driven by common sense and a desire to do what’s best for county residents, not just those with whom he found favor.

The result? Antagonism, threats, and an eventual loss at the polls orchestrated by the far-right of the party, not so much from his opponent in the primary.

Among many accomplishments, Fillios saw the sense of giving taxpayers some bang for their bucks in accepting $32 million from the American Rescue Funds Act (ARPA). He was a key player in the work being done to ensure that Lake Coeur d’Alene will remain North Idaho’s sparkling, healthy gem for generations to come. And when questions again arose about whether Kootenai County’s system of governance was as effective and efficient as it should be, Fillios had the courage to explore the options thoroughly, intent to let voters ultimately decide.

It was that last item that likely cost Fillios the election. Those in political power felt threatened by the possibility that their control might be weakened, and they worked relentlessly to prevent the citizens from having an opportunity to decide for themselves.

Fillios cast a long shadow on that issue, but the truth is that he had been targeted years before because he was open to ideas even from adversaries, and he steadfastly refused to buckle under the pressure brought by the very people who should have been among his staunchest defenders.

Bruce Mattare begins his public service with a clean slate and heartfelt wishes for success in doing what’s best for the people of Kootenai County. The man he beat set a pretty good example of how that’s done.

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