Former Benton City mayor makes run for seat on council

By Annette Cary, Tri-City HeraldOctober 18, 2013 

BENTON CITY -- Former Benton City Mayor Bryan Robinson wants to return to city politics after a controversial term from 2004-07.

This time he's challenging Mary Lettau in the Nov. 5 election for the city council seat she was appointed to in 2012.

The term is for four years and the position pays $75 per meeting.

Lettau said both she and Robinson are not afraid to ask questions and are concerned with making the best use of taxpayer money.

"But we go about it in different ways," she said.

Robinson's four years as mayor included two unsuccessful attempts to recall him from office and five days in jail on a conviction of giving a false or misleading statement to police about a fight with a neighbor.

Since leaving office, he spent a few hours in the Benton County jail in late 2011 after trying to stop a city work crew from digging out a ditch on his property. He ultimately was ordered to pay $850 in fines and costs and told to obtain a permit before removing dirt from a ditch he filled without permission. The ditch was part of a flood control system.

Also as mayor, he fired the city's longtime attorney and hired a new one, a move the city council refused to recognize and both attorneys were retained.

As the town's mayor he tried to wake up the town and do some good, including clearing up corruption and dishonesty, he said.

But if he's elected to the city council he would plan to be more low key and try to control issues through the budget, he said.

Except he would call out the mayor if the mayor tries to run over a council that Robinson thinks too often is uninformed about issues and procedures.

"When something is wrong, I take a stand," he said. "I don't care what the price is."

Despite the controversy during his term as mayor, he had successes, he said, including creating a four-acre business park south of Interstate 82. But since he left office, the city has not found businesses for it, he said.

He'd like a motel, restaurant and service station there to pull in traffic from the interstate and provide a larger tax base for the city, he said.

He's concerned that the Economic Development Council gets too much money from the city for doing too little, he said. Money should be spent on recruiting jobs and industry, not roadside cleanup, he said.

Benton City needs to think bigger than bake sales and have aggressive, active people working on economic development, he said.

Robinson owns two Benton City businesses, the Smallest Trading Post in the Northwest and Exotic Livestock.

Lettau is a billing specialist with an engineering firm and has 28 years of business experience. She attended council meetings for about 18 months before her appointment to fill a vacancy on the council in fall 2012. Among the first things she learned was to start asking many questions, she said.

She believes the council is headed in the right direction, but she wants to make it easier for businesses to come to Benton City and to stay there.

Benton City has not always encouraged, rather than discouraged, businesses, she said. Business can be encouraged without losing Benton City's small town atmosphere, which was what attracted Lettau and her husband to the town more than 28 years ago, she said.

Dale Street already has small manufacturers and has space and the zoning in place for more, she said. The town also could use more retail, she said.

She is in favor of limited government, believing that the federal government has taken over too much of what the private sector does. There are requirements that Benton City has to follow, but the town does not need to go beyond those, she said. The city should use its tax money wisely and live within its means, she said.

For more election stories, visit tricityherald.com/election.

-- Annette Cary: 582-1533; acary@tricityherald.com

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