Public safety is a top priority for the four Benton County commissioner candidates who spoke at Wednesday's forum.
The four Republicans are vying for seats in the November election also were in favor of a possible tax to pay for a mental health facility where mentally ill people who commit crimes could be helped instead of going to jail.
Candidates Jim Beaver, Edgar Cousineau, Jerome Delvin and Rick Jansons each took their turn addressing questions from about two dozen people who attended the event at the Richland Public Library.
"Public safety is a No. 1 issue and it's important to me that we build a better community," Beaver said. He pointed out that while serving on the commission the county organized a gang task force as well as built an animal control shelter for stray dogs.
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Beaver is the incumbent for District 3, serving his fourth year as a commissioner and second term as the chairman of the board. He is being challenged by Cousineau.
Cousineau said he has held several types of jobs, including a vocational counselor, and that his working-class experience will enable him to relate better to residents.
"I can't promise to fix the world's problems," he told the audience. "But I'm a working-class guy who will work hard for the people (of Benton County) the best I can."
Jansons said the issues he sees as important involve not only public safety but making sure Benton County remains a good place to work.
He is running against Delvin for the District 1 seat. That position is currently held by Leo Bowman, who is retiring. Jansons is a member of the Richland Public Facilities District board who also serves as chairman of the Richland School Board.
Delvin, the longtime Eighth District state senator, who also served in the state House of Representatives from 1994 to 2004, said issues he would support in addition to public safety, include energy, economic development, technology and innovation, education, as well as the plight of the farmer.
The forum was sponsored by the Benton and Franklin counties League of Women Voters.
-- Dori O'Neal: 582-1514; firstname.lastname@example.org