All four candidates vying for Position 7 on the West Richland City Council are concerned about the city's development and growth in coming years.
They will face off in the Aug. 16 primary election. The top two vote-getters then will head to the Nov. 8 general election. Primary ballots were mailed this week.
The city council position is a nonpartisan, four-year term. The annual salary is $4,200.
Council incumbent Tony Benegas, 50, said West Richland is at a crossroads.
"We are growing and changing -- which is inevitable. What isn't is progress, and that takes us, the council and the citizens of West Richland, working together."
Benegas, who owns a small engineering firm in Richland, was elected to the council in 2007, the first time he ever ran for office.
In the three-plus years since he was elected, Benegas said he used his business skills to build some great relationships with the citizens of West Richland and fellow elected officials. He helped secure a $254,000 grant to allow West Richland to spruce up the Yakima River entrance to the city.
And that's something citizens have repeatedly told the council was a priority, Benegas said.
He also serves on the board of directors for United Way and the Benton Franklin Community Action Committee, and as a civil rights commissioner for Washington.
Benegas is being challenged by Johan Curtiss, 50, registrar at Washington State University Tri-Cities; Jeff Ballard, 38, a financial planner; and Larry E. Sandberg, 71, owner of Tri-City Fence.
Curtiss has been involved in West Richland city government for 10 years. She has served on the Economic Development Board for many years, the Planning Commission for a year and a half and on the Board of Adjustment since 2002. She has also been a board member of the West Richland Area Chamber of Commerce.
She would like to see the council "accurately define our quality of life." "There seems to be a disconnect between the community and the council. One thing that's occurring, currently, is the balance of what should be commercial and what shouldn't be, is off," Curtiss said.
For example, she said, a recent presentation by the city included some commercial development at Flat Top Park.
"That does not sit well with a number of people in the community, including myself. That is our park and our hill, we want the green space," she said.
Ballard would like to see the city proceed with development and to continue the clean up along Van Giesen Street.
"I would like to see more growth. I love it out here but I'd like it if we didn't have to travel (out of West Richland) to get more amenities, more restaurants, more things to do," Ballard said.
Ballard decided to run for city council because he wanted to get involved with his community.
"I can't sit back and complain about something or someone if I'm not willing to get in there and do it myself," he said.
This is also Sandberg's first run for office.
"It's time I got involved," he said. "I own quite a bit of property in West Richland and I want some say in what happens in town."
Sandberg said he's been working to improve his properties -- which includes the Sandberg Event Center -- and would like to do the same for West Richland.
"I'd like to see more practicality where the money is going, where it's spent," he said.
w Loretto J. Hulse: 582-1513; firstname.lastname@example.org