Two candidates, each with a history of winning elections in Kennewick, are competing for one spot on the Port of Kennewick commission.
Of course, only one will prevail when ballots are counted Nov. 7 — incumbent Skip Novakovich or challenger Rick Reil. Ballots were mailed in October and must be returned or postmarked by Tuesday.
Both men are long-time Tri-Citians, military veterans and business owners with strong civic resumes and a history of serving in elected office.
Novakovich, 69, is seeking re-election after winning his current term in 2011, when he ran unopposed.
Reil, 65, is a 24-year member of the Kennewick Public Hospital District Board looking for a new opportunity as the hospital works through bankruptcy to a new future. If elected, he said he will serve on both boards until he is no longer needed by the hospital district.
He won his last hospital board election with almost 73 percent of the vote in 2013.
The 2018 salary for port commissioners is $26,355 plus health insurance.
Reil said he’s seeking a spot on the port commission not because he disagrees with Novakovich, but because the seat representing his district is up and he wants to serve. He said three-member commissions need more turnover than seven-member ones like the Kennewick General Hospital District.
Novakovich owns Esprit Graphic Communications in downtown Kennewick. He is a Whitman College graduate and retired from the Army as a lieutenant colonel. He first joined the port commission in 2009 and later ran for his current term.
Novakovich said he’s proud that the district’s property levy rate has dropped a quarter, to 33 cents per $1,000, during his tenure, and that the investment in Spaulding Business Park in Richland added $80 million to tax rolls and 1,100 jobs to the local economy.
He cited the port’s respectful relationship with the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation as a key partnership that took years to build.
He’s proud too that the board made the politically difficult, but economically necessary, decision to shut down Vista Air Field at the end of 2013 and launched on an ambitious campaign to redevelop it as a mixed-use community.
Reil dates his interest in politics to putting up signs for John F. Kennedy in 1960. He graduated from Washington State University served in the Air Force during the Vietnam era. He owned a photo supply business and is well-known to Tri-Citians as the photographer who takes school pictures.
Reil said he would like to serve two terms on the port commission. He chose not to second-guess the decision to close Vista Field, which port officials say saved it $400,000 in annual operating subsidies, and generally supports the mixed-use redevelopment concept.
He wants the mix of housing to include smaller units for retirees and empty nesters.
Reil said the port is going in the right direction, though he would like to see more emphasis on industrial development and family-wage jobs.
Novakovich has raised almost $10,500 for his re-election campaign, according to the Washington Public Disclosure Commission. Reil registered as a mini-filer, meaning he does not intend to raise more than $5,000.
The Port of Kennewick, which employs 12 people, is a special purpose government dedicated to fostering jobs and infrastructure in parts of Kennewick, Richland, West Richland and unincorporated Benton County. The 2017-18 budget includes about $8 million in spending.
The Port of Kennewick is a special purpose government dedicated to fostering jobs and infrastructure in parts of Kennewick, Richland, West Richland and unincorporated Benton County.
It shares borders with the ports of Benton, Pasco and Walla Walla.
In October, the commission approved a budget for 2017 and 2018 that includes about $8 million in spending. The port employs 12 people and is funded by a mix of property taxes and earned revenue from tenants.
The coming years promise to be busy ones.
It is completing the first phase of Columbia Gardens Urban Wine & Artisan Village near the cable bridge and will soon turn wine production facilities and tasting rooms over to its two tenants. The second phase, including a culinary school for Columbia Basin College, is the next step.
The port has approved a master plan for the 103-acre Vista Field redevelopment. The Kennewick City Council is expected to review it in December.
Redevelopment of the former Tri-City Raceway in West Richland is several years away and contingent on construction of a new Red Mountain interchange on Interstate 82.