Two positions on the Kennewick Irrigation District Board are to be filled in next week's election, but only one seat will be decided by the roughly 20,000 property owners who are eligible to vote.
John Jaksch, board president, is seeking a three-year term without an opponent.
But Dean Dennis, Kirk Rathbun and Jim Wade are running for the District 1 seat, which is open because longtime director John Pringle is stepping down.
Jaksch nearly had a challenger, but Dale Walters, a former KID director, did not have sufficient signatures on his nomination petition to get on the ballot. As a result, Jaksch is presumed re-elected, and there will be no ballot for the District 4 seat.
Dennis says he believes it is time the KID board had a voice representing the approximately 14,000 district residents who live on properties of five acres or fewer.
A resident of Kennewick and the Tri-Cities for nearly 30 years, the 67-year-old retired Navy chief petty officer served in Vietnam and later worked at Hanford until 1995.
Although retired, he worked this year for the U.S. Census Bureau as a recruiter and crew leader.
He is in his second term as president of the Home Owners Association for Pheasant Run in Kennewick, which has 200 members, and is an officer in the Columbia Classic Car Club. Dennis also has been active in the efforts of the Three Rivers Transportation Expo to form a Tri-City transportation museum.
"I love to volunteer and I want to be a spokesman for the people. As a member of the KID board, I would encourage people to call me with their concerns," Dennis said.
While this is his first attempt at being elected to a public agency board, Dennis said he has been watching KID as a ratepayer for years.
"I am concerned about what appear to be inefficiencies ..., and raises being given during these tough economic times," he said.
Dennis said he believes KID's rates "are way above the neighboring districts."
Jim Wade says he wants to bring accountability to the KID by focusing on "wasteful spending and "rates that aren't fair and equitable."
Wade, 70, is making his third attempt to be elected to the KID board. A frequent visitor at board meetings, he often questions the board about expenditures and accuses KID of not following state law.
"KID management is going in the wrong direction. Residential customers are subsidizing farmers and developers," said Wade, who notes all current KID directors either have a farming background, a current farm, live on ag land or have development property in the KID.
"I'd represent the people," said Wade, who lives with his wife on a residential lot in Kennewick.
Wade, a native of Wallula, worked and lived in Maple Valley until returning to the Tri-Cities eight years ago. He is retired from the Washington State Patrol and owned a business.
He said he became interested in KID about seven years ago when it began seeing high turnover in management and water rates suddenly increased.
He said he has relied on chain e-mails to promote his candidacy and has distributed his message through the Burbank High School graduates' website.
Kirk Rathbun has a year of service as chairman of the KID Water Rates Advisory Committee.
A farmer and 28-year Kennewick resident, Rathbun wants to continue to serve as a director to help bring KID from being a primarily a farm water agency to serving a growing residential customer base.
Rathbun said he has special insight into water issues because he is a partner in a small residential water system west of Rancho Reata.
"It would be nice if the rates went down, but the cost for the district is a big issue. There are several challenges for KID. There was a high cost to build the system initially," Rathbun said. Being on the water rates advisory committee has given him insights into the complex issues that make it difficult to compare KID with neighboring water districts with much lower costs, he said.
Rathbun lives with his family in Hansen Park, but farms about 70 acres in the KID and hundreds of other acres in West Richland and Connell.
This is his first attempt at elective office.
Rathbun has mailed letters to KID property owners, asking for their vote and enclosing an application for an absentee ballot.
KID requires absentee ballot applications to be submitted to KID office at 12 W. Kennewick Ave. by Thursday so there will be enough time to mail the absentee ballots back to voters by the Dec. 14 election.
-- John Trumbo: 582-1529; firstname.lastname@example.org