Economic development, adding parks and recreational opportunities, and lower taxes are common goals among candidates running for the West Richland City Council.
Those issues also rank among the top priorities of residents, according to a recent survey and among those who attended an Oct. 12 town hall meeting.
Merle Johnson, the Position 5 incumbent, faces Robert "Bob" Perkes, 33, who is seeking his first elected office.
Longtime West Richland residents, Johan Curtiss, 50, and Tony Benegas, 50, are campaigning for Position 7.
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The general election is Nov. 8. Both positions are four-year terms that pay $350 a month.
If elected, Robert "Bob" Perkes said he would work to protect the city's parks and recreational opportunities. A second goal is to create additional revenue without raising taxes.
One way to do this, he said, is to attract new businesses while retaining those in West Richland.
"West Richland needs to grow economically. We can't rely on a tax base comprised primarily of property taxes. People are coming to West Richland, but their dollars keep going away. I will strive to position West Richland as a desirable place to make and do things not just a place to sell and sleep," he wrote on his website, bob4west.com.
Perkes moved to West Richland five years ago with his wife, Britta, and four sons. He has served on the city's planning commission for three years.
By consistently voting for more parks and planned growth, Perkes said he has been a friend to homeowners and builders.
"We must combat urban sprawl, not just because it's undesirable but because it's the law," he wrote in an email to the Herald. "There's a tight rope we must walk with the Growth Management Act. We can maintain rural pockets in our city, but within the constraints of the act we will have to make compromises. Growth will happen whether we want it to or not. It's up to elected officials to direct that growth appropriately."
Incumbent Merle N. Johnson has served on the city council for six years. Calls to his cellphones and requests to three email accounts went unanswered.
On his website, merlenormanjohnson.com, Johnson notes some issues the council faces include:
-- Communication -- Making sure that all constituents understand how their tax dollars are being used.
-- Budget -- Better planning to reduce large cuts resulting in a lower level of service.
-- Criminal justice -- Need to be proactive not reactive -- stop the generational criminal. Equalize the burden of criminal justice costs between county and the cities.
-- Comprehensive Plan -- Continue to follow the Comprehensive Plan as the community grows which is required by law.
Johnson also has been on the Benton County Weed Control Board for 13 years.
Tony Benegas, who owns a small engineering company in Richland, is seeking a second term.
Two qualities Benegas said he brings to the council are, "I'm a unifier and a team player."
While on the council, Benegas pushed for joint meetings with the city council, park board, planning commission and economic development board.
"This ensures everyone is on the same page, with the same goals, so we can move the city -- together -- into the future," he said.
During his first term, Benegas helped secure a $254,000 grant to spruce up the Yakima River entrance to the city. He called it the first step in Van Giesen revitalization and cleanup.
"West Richland is at a crossroads," he said. "West Richland will continue to grow and change and that's inevitable. What isn't assured is progress, and that's where we need to work together as a community."
"With my business experience in establishing priorities, finding money, building relationships with other organizations, planning strategically and budgeting, I can help bring about progress as we manage growth and change in West Richland," he said.
The city faces challenges with the budget, growth and change, he said.
"I don't think we want to go backwards with plans and schemes that were created 10 years ago," he said. "I think folks are interested in embracing the future together. What it comes down to is this -- prosperity, growth and jobs are where I want to lead West Richland, as a unifier, looking forwards and not backwards."
His website is tony4WestRichland.com.
Opposing him is Johan Curtiss, registrar at Washington State University Tri-Cities.
She seeks funding for the city's park plan. Building parks is part of our economic goal, she said, adding that parks are where people come together, visit and become engaged.
"Parks have given us the opportunity to get to know our neighbors again. They give us one common space to all get together," Curtiss said.
She also wants more jobs and businesses in West Richland.
"We have a great intersection with Keene and Kennedy to get people to where they need to go," she said. "We have a proper land balance for industrial and commercial and the city is interconnected with Highway 395 and I-82. It makes perfect sense (for businesses) to locate in West Richland."
Curtiss, with her background in business and economic development, knows the value of working with partners such as the ports, universities and other communities, she said.
"That collaboration is very important," she said.
She serves on the city's planning commission and board of adjustment. She also served seven years on the economic development board. Her website is johancurtiss.com.