Kennewick resident takes on city council Position 1 incumbent

Kristi Pihl, Tri-City HeraldOctober 11, 2013 

A Kennewick man who wants to bring "fire and passion" to the city council is challenging an incumbent who describes himself as "the average Joe citizen on council."

Matt Boehnke, a project manager at Energy Northwest, is challenging Kennewick mayor pro tem Don Britain for the council Position 1 seat representing Ward 1 -- the western portion of the city -- in the Nov. 5 general election.

Boehnke, 45, a Kamiakin High School graduate, said he's eager for the chance to vocally serve the public after retiring two years ago from the U.S. Army as a lieutenant colonel. He served in the Army for about 21 years, including flying helicopters and acting as a program manager for U.S. Army Cyber Command.

Boehnke's priority to is make the city a safe place for families, to keep the cost of living down and to have more options for fun and recreation available, he said.

"I am local, but think globally," he said.

He cites as strengths his background in listening to problems and dealing with diverse peoples, cultures and locations. He said he can help form collaborative agreements that solve problems.

Britain, 52, said he still wants to serve the community as much as he did when he was elected to his first four-year term in 2009.

Britain is a WorkFirst case manager with the Department of Social and Health Services and also a Kamiakin High School graduate. He wants to continue efforts by current and previous councils to make Kennewick a better place, he said.

The city has done a better job communicating with the public, businesses, builders and other governments and agencies, Britain said. For example, he and other council members have reached out to Kennewick residents at football and hockey games.

Britain can look at issues with an open mind and listen to all views in an impartial way, he said.

Boehnke, a member of the Kennewick Arts Commission, wants to see increased transparency and efficiency by the government, he said. There should be more opportunities for citizens to give feedback and ask questions, such as town halls.

Kennewick needs to make its customer service a top priority, including dropping red tape and making it easier and more efficient for businesses to apply for building permits and business licenses, Boehnke said. That can be done by using technology rather than adding people.

Britain said the city already has made an effort in the last four years to improve customer service, including the creation of a one-stop customer service center.

And the city has sought feedback from builders and developers that has spurred changes, including offering building permit services online, Britain said.

Another change Britain said he's proud of is the city's switch to awarding pay raises based on performance.

Boehnke, who has attended council meetings for the last year and a half, is also critical of the rate of Southridge's progress, which he feels should have been faster.

The city needs to develop that into a true gateway to the city and make sure it doesn't lose businesses to other cities, he said.

"It's a clean slate and we have a lot of opportunities to make it really a tremendous area," he said.

But Britain feels the city has taken the time it needed on Southridge to make sure the development there is a right fit, he said. Kennewick General Hospital's Southridge hospital is moving forward, and the Southridge Sports & Events Complex has been more successful in bringing in visitors than even its supporters had thought.

"We've got the ball rolling and I just want to be there to make sure that it continues to roll in the right direction," he said.

Kennewick council members are paid about $12,000 a year. As mayor pro tem, a position voted on by council, Britain is paid about $13,000 a year.

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-- Kristi Pihl: 582-1512;

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