Most political bodies benefit from a mix of old and new blood, creating a marriage between continuity and fresh ideas.
The six candidates for three positions on the West Richland City Council all bring a wealth of talent, and we had a tougher time than usual reaching a decision.
Ultimately, we considered the three races as a slate, and based our recommendations largely on the combination we think will provide the best mix of skills to address West Richland's needs.
Hayden v. Dobbin
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We like Ron Hayden and appreciate his zeal for service. The 27-year-old Hanford Patrol officer has completed two combat tours in the Iraq war, earning our gratitude and respect.
He's also active in the Republican Party, serving as precinct committee officer to the Benton County GOP and on the steering committee for Rob McKenna's gubernatorial bid.
Valuable experience, of course, but we'd like to see Hayden log a lot more hours working on municipal issues before moving up to the council, especially if he plans to take on a proven commodity like Ken Dobbin.
Our suggestion for Hayden is to spend time on some of the city's boards and commissions.
Dobbin's experience on the council is extensive. He was first appointed to fill a vacancy more than 17 years ago.
During his tenure, Dobbin helped resolve serious water and sewer issues created by unprecedented growth.
For the past nine years, he's been the council's liaison to Benton Fire District 4, a role that made him instrumental in the addition of a new station on Bombing Range Road and passage of the bond to provide ambulance service to West Richland.
We don't always agree with Dobbin, but there's no question West Richland is a better community today because of Dobbin's efforts. He deserves another term.
Benegas v. Curtiss
Reaching a decision between Tony Benegas and Johan Curtiss was as tough as any we can remember.
Both candidates are first-rate community leaders who offer a wealth of experience and a firm grasp of the issues facing West Richland.
Curtiss is the sort of community activist who would ordinarily walk away with our recommendation. Against a lesser candidate than Benegas, we'd be asking voters to support her this year.
She serves on the planning commission and board of adjustment and was part of the city's economic development board and on the West Richland Area Chamber of Commerce.
We like her position on the issues -- preserving West Richland's quality of life, enhance the city's parks, creating a community center and encouraging commercial development.
But those stands don't separate Curtiss from the incumbent. They share a similar vision for West Richland's future.
Moreover, Benegas also claims a solid grounding in community service. He is on the board of directors for United Way and the Benton Franklin Community Action Committee, and serves on the state's civil rights commission.
His four years on the council give Benegas an edge over the challenger.
Among his accomplishments was helping to secure a $254,000 grant to improve the Yakima River entrance to the city and helping expand Flat Top Park.
We like the direction West Richland is headed and believe Benegas is best suited to keep the city on track.
Johnson v. Perkes
Merle Johnson was appointed to the West Richland City Council in January 2006. A few months earlier, he lost his bid for a seat on the council by a mere eight votes.
In 2007 he retained the seat in an unopposed race. This year, however, he has a challenger.
Robert Perkes thinks is the man to replace Johnson, and we agree.
However, if Johnson wins the election, we think the city will still be in capable hands.
The tipping point for us in recommending Perkes, however, is looking at the council as a whole and seeing a need for a qualified mix of rookie and experienced members.
Perkes is clearly knowledgeable about the workings of the city and, to his credit, has some strong ideas about how to lead the city in the coming years.
He has been serving on the planning commission and describes himself as heavily invested in the community.
Perkes sees Johnson as a "no" voter and says he would work to build common ground on the council.
Looking at Johnson's record, we have to admit there are a lot of no votes. In his defense, Johnson says that most of those votes are because he's cautious and fiscally responsible.
It's hard to criticize that mindset, but it also is hard to move a community forward while constantly looking backward.
Our recommendation for Perkes is not a vote against Johnson. Rather our vote for Perkes is a chance for West Richland to add a qualified new voice to the current chorus.
The Tri-City Herald recommends Robert Perks, Tony Benegas and Ken Dobbin for West Richland City Council.