Richland City Council incumbent's challenger wants change

By Sara Schilling, Tri-City HeraldOctober 29, 2013 

An incumbent with five years on the Richland City Council is vying to keep her seat in the November election against a resident who says it's time for a change in city government.

The race for Position 3 pits City Councilwoman Sandra Kent against challenger Eldon E. Eskeli.

Ballots are due by Nov. 5.

Council members make $1,090 a month.

Eskeli, 48, a nursery technician at Home Depot, would bring a new perspective to the council dais, he said.

"I'm going to represent the middle-class people -- the workers at Fred Meyer, the mechanics at the garage, the average Joe. I'm going to represent those people -- and all the rest, don't get me wrong. But those are the people who don't have a voice on the council," he said.

The current council, including Kent, has grown stale, Eskeli said, failing to bring new ideas and too often "kicking the can down the road" on issues.

The city needs to bring in more new business and higher-wage jobs to diversify the economy, expand the tax base and make living in Richland more affordable, he said.

He said he's in tune with the public and if elected, would work to engage with residents and help them become more involved in city government.

"We need new faces, new people and new ideas," Eskeli said.

Eskeli has been on the Richland City Council ballot before. He ran for Position 6 in 2011 but was edged out of the race in the primary.

Kent, 48, is an attorney for Washington River Protection Solutions, the Hanford tank farms contractor. She was appointed to the council in 2008 and twice since has won election to keep her seat. She previously served as part of the city's planning commission.

Her experience in city government is an asset and so are her years in the legal world, she said. She noted that much of the day-to-day work of the council involves reviewing contracts and leases, and that members also must be strategic and forward-thinking in decision-making.

The city has done a good job living within its means while also growing and making investments, such as improvements to city parks, Kent said.

"A lot of that has to do with our phenomenal city staff, but also the council as city leaders continuing to hold the line and be fiscally responsible," she told the Herald.

Kent, who worked her way through law school by loading UPS trailers at night, said the city must continue to encourage business growth.

She disputed Eskeli's view that the council is stale, saying members work well together but aren't afraid to disagree and think outside the box.

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

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