In the West Richland City Council elections, it isn’t just a matter of choosing the better candidate in each race.
It’s also a matter of selecting the right combination of people — a “dream team” of sorts.
That’s because five of eight elected city positions are contested this year. It is possible there could be a significant amount of turnover in West Richland leadership, and that has its pros and cons.
After talking with all the candidates, it is clear there is disagreement over the vision for West Richland’s future and how fast the 14,000-plus community should grow.
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All council seats are at-large positions, so every West Richland voter has a say in every race.
Instead of checking the ballot race by race, we suggest residents also consider the overall mix — how certain groupings likely will work together better than others.
Out of seven council seats, three incumbents drew challengers. One race features two newcomers who came out on top in the August primary.
And then there is the mayor’s race:
West Richland Mayor
The most powerful political position in West Richland is the mayor. That person functions not only as the ceremonial chief executive, but as the chief administrator, too.
Such an arrangement is commonly called a “strong mayor” form of government. Kennewick, Pasco and Richland each have ceremonial figures known as mayors but also a professional city manager who runs the shop — a CEO with a handful of bosses who hire and, if necessary, can fire him or her.
As it happens, West Richland has two mayors seeking the job this year:
Jerry Peltier is the former three-term mayor from 1994 to 2005.
Brent Gerry is the sitting mayor, seeking re-election.
Two men of strong personalities, leadership skills and hard-won, on-the-job experience.
Peltier’s experience was in leading West Richland from a near-village of 4,000 to almost triple its size and from a budget of $3 million a year to $36 million. Budget reserves went from zero to more than $2 million, he said.
“Thanks to the hard work of a great city staff and supportive city council,” Peltier told the Herald, “we achieved more than any city our size in the state of Washington during that period.”
He is critical of the amount of money West Richland is now spending and the debt it is assuming. He seems to us to really miss the old days while at the same time believing the city has not gotten away from him. He seems convinced that even with higher costs, debts and complications he is still the better person for the job.
Mayor Gerry is focused on development and commitment to solid business practices. His accomplishments, he points out, include paying off early a $1.2 million debt he inherited, saving the taxpayers $200,000 in interest. And Gerry led the effort to retrofit the city’s streetlights to LED, saving taxpayers $73,000 annually on energy costs.
He’s proud of the transformation of the waterfront at the Yakima River Gateway Project and the development of Belmont District, a light industrial/commercial site that’s created 80 new full-time jobs so far.
He was instrumental in securing for the city its first AA bond rating. The city under his leadership built the Industrial Wastewater Treatment Facility (thereby attracting Crimson Wine from Napa Valley to the Red Mountain Center). He adds that under his leadership West Richland has been cited as one of the safest cities and best places to raise a family in the state.
We thank Jerry Peltier for his service to the city.
But we cannot agree that he is the better choice for the mayor’s post in this election.
The Herald endorses Brent Gerry for mayor of the city of West Richland.