In local election politics, an auditor’s bid to unseat a commissioner in Franklin County is one of the races to watch.
Auditor Matt Beaton is running against Brad Peck, who is seeking re-election to his third term representing the county’s 1st District.
Peck received 58.5 percent of the votes in the Aug. 2 primary to Beaton’s 41.5 percent. They were the only candidates in the primary. Voters in all three districts participate in the general election on Nov. 8.
Beaton is challenging Peck to bring a new leadership style to the county and to smooth frayed relations with neighboring Benton County, he said.
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The two counties collaborate on a number of public services, including superior court, human services and juvenile justice. Relations have deteriorated this year amidst personality conflicts and complaints from Benton County that Franklin isn’t bearing the fair share of the cost to administer joint programs.
Beaton faults Peck for the testy relationship.
Peck counters that Beaton is throwing political bombs without fully understanding the intricacies that inform the commission’s decisions.
Both candidates are Republicans, and both advocate prudent stewardship of public funds and transparency in government. Both bring decades of professional success and civic engagement to the race. The central issue is leadership style.
Beaton is a former real estate appraiser who says he prefers an open-door policy and collaborative relationships with employees.
Peck retired from the Air Force as a lieutenant colonel. His military background is often on display when he poses detailed questions about seemingly mundane issues during the commission’s weekly business meeting.
His questions often are designed to illustrate bigger issues around county policies, the law and equitable treatment of employees.
But Beaton said Peck’s leading-question approach is damaging to employee morale.
“You can’t hammer the heck out of people day after day. You have to build people up,” Beaton said.
Peck describes himself as a public servant who demands accountability from elected officials and public employees.
“I don’t think you can do this job with integrity and be everybody’s friend,” Peck said.
Beaton said his top priority is to improve relations with Benton County, which have been rocky since a bi-county agreement to provide indigent defense services to criminal defendants expired in January. That and later disputes centered on allegations Franklin wasn’t paying a fair share to administer joint programs.
Next, the two counties fought over the Benton-Franklin Superior Court District, a joint operation that dates to the earliest days of Washington statehood. Later, they sparred over the joint human services division and the delivery of crisis response services.
When Benton County claimed it was subsidizing Franklin by $660,000 per year, Franklin challenged the figure. Negotiations lowered it to $42,000.
Peck said it was the county’s duty to challenge the subsidy claim.
“I recognize that my threshold for information and accuracy is a little higher than they have seen in the past,” he said.
Peck said his top three goals include consolidating Franklin County’s emergency dispatch operations into Benton County’s better-equipped system. He wants to improve the region’s response to mental health services and strengthen bi-county programs.
Peck has served on the county’s three-member board of commissioners since 2009.
He earned degrees from Central Washington University and Eastern Washington University. He served in the Air Force for 21 years and was adviser to several Air Force chiefs of staff, including four-star Gen. Tony McPeak, while assigned to the Pentagon. He retired to the Tri-Cities, where he worked at Energy Northwest.
He and his wife, Debra, purchased the fire-damaged Moore Mansion in Pasco in 2004 and restored it as a private home and event center. They have an adult son and daughter.
Beaton was elected Franklin County auditor in 2010.
He earned a degree in business administration from the University of Washington and is a certified appraiser with 27 years of experience, including nine years running a small business.
He appraised more than $1 billion worth of real estate in the region. He holds leadership positions with several nonprofits, including the Lourdes Foundation Board.
He and his wife, Lisa, have four children.
Beaton has raised $8,583, according to the Washington Public Disclosure Commission. Leading donors include George Bowen (city of Kennewick), Charles Ketch (retired, Pasco), Viking Appraisal LLC (Pasco), Supermex (Pasco) and the law firm Johnson & Orr PS (Richland).
Peck has raised $9,315, according to the commission. Leading supporters include Linda Boggs (North Star Cold Storage), David Manterola (Manterola Hay), Brent Preston (Preston Vineyards) and the Tri-Cities Housing Council.
For more election stories, go to tricityherald.com/election.