Competition heightens for Richland city council seat

Sara Schilling, Tri-City HeraldJuly 26, 2013 

Three longtime Richland residents are facing off for an open seat on the city council.

Stanley Bensussen, Gregory L. Jones and Melody Reed each hope to win the seat being vacated by Mayor John Fox, who is retiring.

It's the only Richland council position in the Aug. 6 primary. The top two vote-getters will advance to the November general election, when three other Richland council races also will be on the ballot.

Council members make $1,090 a month.

Stanley Bensussen

Bensussen, 63, points to his extensive professional experience as good preparation for the city council. He is vice president and chief ethics officer for CH2M Hill Plateau Remediation Co., a Hanford contractor.

He was the general counsel before transitioning to that post, and has held similar positions for other DOE contractors.

For 13 years, Bensussen was senior counsel for Washington Public Power Supply System, now Energy Northwest, which he notes is a municipal corporation like the city.

"I think I bring a diverse and rich background in management of complex matters," he said.

Bensussen will be able to dedicate himself full-time to the council, without conflicts of interest, because he's retiring soon, he said.

He'll work to ensure the city is efficient, cost-effective and adequately serves residents, he said.

The city will be confronted with a number of important issues in the future, he said, specifically citing growth in the Keene Road area and the fate of the Duportail Bridge -- a $35 million project that would see a new four-lane bridge span the Yakima River.

The city also will need to focus on ensuring "our interests are adequately served and protected" as "Hanford continues to wind down and DOE continues to look at the disposition of that federal reservation," he said.

The Uptown Shopping Center area is ripe for economic development and he wants to see other improvements in the city, including some riverfront beautification in the Leslie Groves area, he said.

Richland needs to do a better job of balancing growth with the attractiveness of the city and the impact on citizens, Bensussen said.

Gregory L. Jones

Jones, 59, is vice chairman of the city's Parks & Recreation Commission. He's had perfect attendance as a commissioner and helped align and integrate the group's 2013 goals with the city's strategic leadership plan, he said.

Jones is the nuclear safety division team lead for DOE's Richland Operations Office. His local government experience, coupled with 37 years working for the DOE and in the commercial power industry, makes him well-positioned to help lead Richland into the future, he said.

He noted Richland is a growing city. "We have to make sure the city's infrastructure can keep up with the growth," he said.

The Duportail Bridge project would help with congestion and improve emergency response times, among other benefits, he said.

The city is going after state funding for the bridge project, and Jones said officials will have to be creative in coming up with the rest. He would work to ensure the most reasonable approach is taken and the community is involved, he said.

The city needs to continue the redevelopment and improvement of the Uptown and Parkway areas, Jones said. And, especially as Hanford winds down, it must attract and retain young professionals and "high-skilled, high-wage" employers.

Jones will also focus on financial stewardship and fiscal responsibility, he said. He described himself as an independent thinker who will make decisions based on merits and not politics.

"The biggest thing I will promise the voters is transparency. I want to listen to them actively and openly," he said. "Having that commitment to openly listen, communicate and have that dialogue with the residents of Richland is critical."

Melody Reed

Reed, 59, is a longtime educator looking to make the jump to city politics. She works as vice principal of Christ the King School.

Her experience in education would be an asset on the council, she said.

"I think I would bring reason and logic," she said. "Being an administrator, I deal a lot with parents and students and have to listen to both sides. I'm a good listener, and that's a big part of being on the council -- listening to what residents have to say."

Reed noted that, while living in Georgia, she was appointed by the governor to a state advisory panel on special education.

Now is an exciting time in the city and she wants to be involved in decisions that will shape its future, she said.

She supports the Duportail Bridge project, saying it would be a good thing for Richland, helping with traffic and connectivity.

And she listed improvement of the Uptown as a top priority. She likes that Richland officials collaborate with leaders from the area's other cities, and she wants to see that continue, she said.

Reed would focus on financial responsibility and making decisions that are "financially intelligent," she said.

Reed also noted that Sandra Kent is the only woman to hold a Richland council seat.

Women bring an important perspective, she said. Kent faces challenger Eldon E. Eskeli in the general election. No other female candidates are making council bids in Richland this year.

-- Sara Schilling: 582-1529; sschilling@tricityherald.com; Twitter: @saraTCHerald

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