The vote between incumbent Brad Peck and challenger Matt Beaton for Franklin County commissioner may take place on only one side of the river, but the outcome of this particular race will affect the entire Tri-City region.
With that consideration in mind, we think there needs to be a change. We recommend Beaton.
The relationship between the Franklin and Benton county commissioners is tenuous at best and hostile at worst. Over the last few years, communication between the two groups has declined and suffered to the point where we don’t think the relationship will improve under the status quo.
To be fair, we know that Franklin County Commissioner Brad Peck is not solely responsible for the rift with Benton County. There are stubborn personalities on both sides of the river.
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Matt Beaton has been Franklin County auditor since 2011 and has a solid grasp of the issues facing the community. He said bicounty relations have great potential, but are falling apart.
He also said his collaborative leadership style is better suited to working with his counterparts across the river than Peck’s “command and control” approach, and we agree.
Peck admits he sees things in “black and white” and that his threshold for information and accuracy is high.
He also said his life would be easier if he “was everybody’s friend.”
But that isn't how he works.
While we don’t think Benton and Franklin county commissioners need to be friends, we do think they should have a healthy respect for one another and strive to work together for the good of the Tri-City community.
We recognize Peck is a problem solver, and we admire his ability to thoroughly grasp complex issues.
He has said “it takes two to have a functioning relationship” — and we understand that. But somehow things have gone horribly awry with the Benton-Franklin county relationship during Peck’s tenure.
The two counties have a long history of sharing responsibility and providing a number of services in the Tri-Cities, including the Metro Drug Task Force, the Benton-Franklin Juvenile Justice Center, Superior Court, human services and the Crisis Response Unit.
For years, the two commissions met face-to-face to discuss these joint services, but in 2014, Franklin County unexpectedly questioned whether such meetings were legal. The issue came before the state attorney general and it was determined that county commissioners must conduct business within their county borders.
The law eventually was changed, but that did not improve communication. In fact, at one point, Benton County officials started sending certified letters to each Franklin County commissioner to ensure their messages were getting through.
Many of the joint-county services appeared to be in jeopardy over the past several months because of the dysfunction between the two county commissions.
This is frustrating for those of us who recognize how much better off the community would be if both sides of the river join forces.
Crime and mental health problems don’t stop at a bridge.
Beaton is a smart man with an honest record who understands county challenges. Most importantly, he said he would focus on improving the partnership with Benton County.
We did not hear that sentiment from Peck.
The Tri-City Herald recommends Matt Beaton for Franklin County commissioner, Position 1.
Look for our recommendation Tuesday in the state attorney general’s race.