Former Sheriff Larry Taylor is considering a run for another Benton County political office.
Taylor, who recently resigned from his post leading the county's animal control service, said he expects to make a decision about running for county commissioner after the first of the year.
"It's something I've talked about and wanted to do for the past seven-plus years," Taylor told the Herald.
An exploratory committee has been formed to consider his options, he said.
If he decides to seek the office, the commission seat Taylor would run for is currently held by Leo Bowman.
Taylor said he spoke with Bowman years ago about running for the post when Bowman retires.
Bowman confirmed to the Herald that Taylor indicated in the past "that he would want my job once I retire."
But, he added, "I have no intention of retiring."
Taylor said if the exploratory committee comes back with a recommendation for him to run, he would do so even if Bowman decides to seek a fifth term.
Taylor served 12 years -- and won three elections -- as Benton County's sheriff. He retired in December after 34 years in law enforcement.
He was hired by the commissioners to be the county's new animal control manager -- receiving a salary of $72,000 -- beginning Jan. 1.
His last day as animal control manager was Saturday.
Taylor said he intends to spend his free time now working on the "honey-do" list his wife has waiting for him. He is also hoping to get hired to do security work at the Federal Building in Richland.
When Taylor took the animal control job, he said he was excited about the challenge and a chance to build a department from the ground up.
Getting animal control service in the county, which had been debated for decades, was also something Taylor felt strongly about.
As sheriff, he agreed to take the lead in organizing it after his office was involved in rescuing 371 American Eskimo dogs found living in deplorable conditions at an east Kennewick breeder's home in 2009.
But, he then pitched the idea of running the animal control facility to commissioners after he realized it needed more than part-time attention.
He said he never intended for it to be a permanent job for himself. He said he always planned to stay just as long as was needed to get the shelter open and to get policies and procedures and operation guidelines in place.
"I look back a year ago -- six months before this place opened -- at the visions and expectations I had," Taylor said. "I've actually exceeded what that vision and what those goals are."
Taylor said that on Aug. 17 he decided the facility was running well enough that it could continue to operate without him.
"Don't think it was easy," he said. "This has been an incredibly difficult process, with very, very long hours because there's so much to do and not enough staff."
Taylor said he kept a timecard -- even though he didn't have to -- to just keep track of what it has taken to run the facility.
His first day off since the facility opened Feb. 14 was March 6, and he worked nine weeks straight without a day off from April 12 to June 12.
The shelter is open five days a week, but someone still has to care for the dogs when the shelter is closed, he explained.
He was able to hire two animal control officers -- Tiffani Garner and Mandy Garcia -- and as of his last acts before leaving was to request another part-time officer.
Keith Mercer, the county's finance manager, will now handle the administrative duties of running the department, while the animal control officers will be in charge of the daily operations, Taylor said.
Although it took a lot of time and hard work, Taylor said he is proud to have played a role in getting the much-needed service started in the county.
"We are holding our own for the needs of unincorporated Benton County," he said. "Sadly we don't have capacity to handle West Richland. It would have been a massive failure because it would require mass euthanization."
The facility is consistently at capacity just responding to the animal needs in the county, Taylor said. There are 32 kennels, and on Thursday, there were 41 dogs, including 17 puppies, at the shelter. There also were six dogs staying at foster homes.
Since the service started, they have taken in 249 dogs and 133 have been adopted -- some to people who have driven hundreds of miles from Portland or even Vancouver, British Columbia.
Rescue groups also have taken some dogs. And 47 dogs have been reunited with their families after being picked up in the county.
Taylor's philosophy on euthanasia was that the facility would never kill dogs because of overcrowding -- only if the dogs were too sick or injured, or if they were deemed to be dangerous or vicious.
So far, 20 dogs have been euthanized: five were badly injured after being hit by cars and 15 were deemed vicious or dangerous.
"It's heartbreaking when you have to put them down," Taylor said. "They're not born vicious little monsters ... but at least they have those last minutes with someone who does care about them."
But, Taylor said, there also have been success stories at the shelter. On Feb. 17, a stray German shepherd named Buddy arrived at the shelter. He was so shy he would always get far back into the corner of his kennel and just sit there.
The animal control officers worked with him over the months, and last week, Buddy was finally adopted and now is in his forever home.
It costs $95 to adopt a dog from the Benton County Animal Control facility. The cost includes vaccinations, spay or neuter and microchip.
Animals available for adoption are listed on the county's animal control website, Facebook, Petfinder and Petango.