It's rare to have an elected official called to active military service -- at least we can't remember it happening in the Mid-Columbia.
That's why it came as a shock to learn that Franklin County Clerk Mike Killian is set to be deployed on Jan. 2, with an eventual destination of Kuwait. Probably most surprised is Killian himself, who re-enlisted in the reserves two years ago with the aim of completing 20 years of military service.
We can hardly deny the appeal of military retirement benefits. Killian enlisted in the Navy after graduating from Pasco High in 1983, and traveled the world in service of his country. But as his family grew and the local Navy Reserve Center closed in Richland, Killian made the difficult decision to leave the service.
In the meantime, Killian was elected county clerk in 2000. Then, in 2009, while still serving as clerk, the time seemed right to re-enlist. The practicality of gaining long-term military benefits spurred the decision, as did Killian's long-standing love of public service.
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Never did he imagine he'd end up being deployed, admitting that he thought he was safe from such activities.
Killian feels confident his staff is up to the task of daily operations while he spends as much as a year away from the county courthouse. And he thinks he will be able to keep up with his duties via technology, taking a cellphone and laptop with him to help fulfill his responsibilities back at his Pasco office, all while being stationed 7,000 miles away.
We certainly admire Killian's service to our country. And his determination that he can do both jobs at once.
State law allows Killian to go ahead with the plan, but the people of Franklin County deserve his undivided attention. Residents pay Killian a full-time wage, and he ought to put in full-time effort at the courthouse.
Think about it: Killian will have a demanding job as part of "Operation Enduring Freedom," the war we're waging in Afghanistan. He'll be administrative support for U.S. Customs and Border Protection and work with Army soldiers who are customs inspectors. In short, he'll have his hands full and can hardly be expected to make what's happening in Franklin County a priority.
We don't elect part-time public officials to jobs as key as county clerk. And Killian should have made the choice to resign from public office while he is deployed. He's done a good job and would likely get re-elected upon his return, with even more name recognition as a returning member of the military.
Killian's only bosses are the citizens of Franklin County so there's really no one to tell him what to do, except the people who put him in office.
And that's a tricky business when you're talking about someone who is leaving home and family to serve his country.
We're sure some readers will think we're out of line for suggesting Killian resign because of his deployment.
But working two full-time jobs is a challenge under the best of circumstances, and being deployed to Kuwait is hardly a good fit with the day-to-day operations at the Franklin County Clerk's Office.
We have no doubt that Killian's staff is up to the job, but they need a leader.
He has made decisions to help his family, while creating some personal sacrifices by being away from them for 2012.
We wish Killian well. We admire his sacrifice. We want folks to see him as a shining example of service.
The only thing missing is making the right decision for the people of Franklin County.