If we could combine the experience of one candidate with the tact of the other, we would have the ideal person for Richland City Council.
As it happens, voters will have to choose between Robert “Bob” Thompson, Richland’s outspoken mayor, and Rhoda Williams, a smart and genteel business owner new to politics.
Thompson’s mountain of knowledge of the city, the Tri-City region and how operations at the nearby Hanford nuclear site affect our communities is extremely valuable.
Despite his brusque nature, we believe his 23 years of experience on the Richland City Council makes him an asset. We recommend Thompson retain his seat.
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However, for voters who feel there is a disconnect between Thompson and residents, Williams offers a gracious alternative.
She is a courteous candidate who says she knows how to listen and solve problems.
Refreshingly, she is not running because she is frustrated with the current council.
Earlier this year, Richland council members stirred controversy when they unanimously decided to levy a $20 fee on vehicle licenses to help get the Duportail Bridge built and increase the road maintenance budget.
The unpopular decision attracted many candidates aiming to unseat incumbents who voted for the extra fee.
However, that’s not what is motivating Williams.
As a relative newcomer to Richland, she said she was inspired to get involved in city government because of the support she has received from the community.
She is a six-year Richland resident who opened Ms. Rhoda’s Wine Garden at the Parkway three years ago. Prior to that, she worked as a tax preparer.
Williams said she “loves” Richland and said that whether her business lasts or not, the city will be her home.
“The citizens have supported me,” she said, and now she wants to be a voice for them on the council.
The $20 license fee “blindsided” citizens, Williams said. But she thinks it was the right decision and she hopes people will “embrace” it the way she has embraced it.
Thompson acknowledges the car tab fee was unpopular with many residents, but noted it was the best solution to a problem Richland city officials shouldn’t have had to deal with in the first place.
Richland had been counting on state transportation money covering the entire $38 million bill for the new bridge. Instead, the amount from the state was $4 million short.
Thompson said it all came down to timing. Getting money for the bridge — which will connect the new Queensgate area with the heart of Richland — has been in the works for years. He said if the city council didn’t act quickly and secure the local portion, the entire project would be in jeopardy.
If the city turns away this pot of state money, lawmakers likely would not support any other transportation projects the city might want help with in the future, he said.
He noted that the Durportail Bridge had been discussed in open meetings before, but that residents didn’t pay attention.
Even so, the car tab issue has prompted a backlash from citizens who say the council and Thompson are too dismissive of their concerns.
Thompson has a tendency to say exactly what he thinks, and his abrupt talk can be off-putting — such as when he once called global warming “clap trap.”
Williams would be more thoughtful than Thompson, but she is so new to city government that her learning curve would be significant.
Thompson is blunt, but he is effective. He also has led the city during a time of tremendous growth.
We encourage Williams to continue her involvement in city government and run again for office after she has gained more experience. The city council could certainly use her civility.
While Thompson should work harder at building a better relationship with residents, he doesn’t shy away from saying what’s on his mind.
The Herald recommends Bob Thompson for Richland City Council Position 1.