Benton County Commissioner Shon Small is looking to defend his District 2 seat against two challengers in the Aug. 5 primary election.
He faces Timothy Dalton, a local business leader, and Brad Taylor, a longtime county Public Works employee and labor official. The three-way race already has pulled in more than $37,000 in campaign contributions.
The top two vote-getters no matter what party advance to the general election in November. Ballots already were mailed.
The term is four years. The salary in 2015 will be $103,063.
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Small, 46, a Republican from Prosser, took office in 2011 after unseating longtime Commissioner Max Benitz Jr. He spent 20 years in law enforcement with the county sheriff's office before delving into politics.
Small said he and his fellow commissioners have worked hard to make county government more efficient and to make the community safer and more productive.
Accomplishments range from reorganizing the county's information technology department and upgrading county phones and internet, to making critical improvements to farm-to-market roads and pushing for expedited cleanup to the highest standards at the Hanford site, Small said.
The county also established a gang task force to combat gang crime and won funding for updates at the historic county courthouse in Prosser, among other improvements, Small said.
And the county navigated a projected multimillion shortfall in the last two-year budget cycle without sweeping layoffs or service cuts.
Commissioners instead worked with elected officials and department heads to find savings and make trims, Small said, noting "everybody made an effort to fill in the gap" and the process exemplified teamwork.
Public safety is a top priority, he said, and so is economic development. The county can help create conditions that bring jobs, and "we take a collaborative approach," working with groups such as the Tri-City Development Council, or TRIDEC, the Tri-Cities Visitor and Convention Bureau and other officials "to make the Tri-Cities area more business friendly and attractive," Small said.
The county must continue working on new water storage and to upgrade irrigation infrastructure, he said. He also noted that funding for road projects won't get any easier to find, but the county must be diligent when it comes to fighting for priority projects.
Small said he brings openness, honestly and professionalism to the job. "I truly focus on trying to represent (citizens) the best I can," he said.
Small is married with two adult children.
He's the race's fundraising leader, collected about $24,000 for his campaign. His top donors include George Garlick, Stevens Center Management and Tri-Cities Housing Council, each giving $1,900.
Small has a campaign website at www.voteforsmall.com.
Dalton, 54, is the other Republican in the race.
He and Small have faced off before; Dalton also challenged Benitz in the 2010 election for District 2 but was eliminated in the primary.
Dalton said he's running to enhance economic development in the county. He's worked since 2002 as executive director of the Historic Downtown Kennewick Partnership, and before that was general manager of the Pasco Farmers Market and production coordinator for Ste. Michelle Winery Estates in Paterson.
He sees economic development as the engine for improving public safety and other public services, and said he has expertise that sets him apart. "With my business and economic background, I think I can bring something to the commission that it needs," Dalton said, adding that infrastructure such as interstate access at Red Mountain will be needed for future growth and development.
Dalton said he feels county government could be run more efficiently. Also, "we need to be doing a little more protecting natural resources. Water issues are going to be a big part (of that)," he said.
"That is an important area within the county, with where we're at -- water conservation, water storage, working with (the Washington State University Extension and others) for effective irrigation management for agriculture," he said.
Dalton favors adding two more county commissioners to bring the total to five -- a move he said would improve representation by spreading out the concentration of power. Under his plan, commissioners would take a pay cut so adding two more wouldn't cost more money.
Dalton said he's disappointed the county allowed recreational marijuana businesses instead of going with a moratorium like some other communities, although it's too late now to take another path.
Dalton lives in Kennewick and is married with two adult children. He hasn't actively been fundraising and has logged receiving $500.
Dalton has a campaign website at www.daltonforcommissioner.com.
Taylor, 57, is the lone Democrat in the race.
He's worked in the county's Public Works department for 25 years, serving as shop steward most of that time.
Taylor also holds leadership positions in the state Democratic Party and is president of Teamsters Local 839, which has about 2,000 members in the region, from food processing plant workers to police and public works employees.
Taylor would bring the perspective of the working person, he said. "That's who I am -- the working guy, the blue collar worker who represents blue collar workers. If you work for a living, I'm probably the guy you want," he said, adding that he feels the current county commissioners have "forgotten where they came from" in that regard.
He'd work to improve the climate in county government, he said, adding that some mid-level county managers fear for their jobs if they make a mistake or fall out of favor with higher ups.
He said his background would be an asset. "I've been able to negotiate contracts with the county, resolve some good-size issues with management over the years. So I think I can negotiate with the other two (commissioners) and work with them. I think I can negotiate and work with all the elected officials," he said.
Taylor said the county budget will take close management, and "we need to have more water storage" in the area and he's eager to collaborate on that issue. Public safety also is a top priority, and improving farm-to-market roads -- "that job is never done," he said.
Taylor said he'd like to see the county look at adding infrastructure to help the environment, such as charging stations for electric cars at facilities like the county courthouse. He's also interested in exploring the possibility of light rail in the area.
Taylor lives in Prosser and is married with four adult children.
He has raised $12,805 for his campaign. Labor groups make up his top donors, including Public Professional & Office Clerical Employees and Drivers Local 763 and Teamsters Local 834, which each donated $1,900.
Taylor is on Facebook www.facebook.com/friends4BradTaylor.
For more election stories, go to tricityherald.com/election.
-- Sara Schilling: 509-582-1529; email@example.com; Twitter: @saraTCHerald