Kennewick Mayor Steve Young confirmed he’ll step down from the role he’s held for the past eight years, setting off a fierce, behind-the-scenes fight to succeed him between Mayor Pro Tem Don Britain and Councilman Matt Boehnke.
The outcome will hinge on the votes of long-time councilman Paul Parish and two councilmen who won’t take office until shortly before the vote, Bill McKay and Steve Lee.
Under Kennewick’s council-manager form of government, the seven-member city council selects one of its own to serve a two-year term as mayor.
The role is largely ceremonial and includes representing the city, giving speeches and coordinating with the mayor pro-tem to cover ribbon cuttings and similar civic events.
The day-to-day task of running the city falls to the city manager, Marie Mosley.
Richland and Pasco employ the same system and will select mayors in January.
West Richland residents elect their mayor directly under a “strong mayor” form of government. Mayor Brent Gerry won re-election in November.
Officially, Britain is supported by Young. Councilman John Trumbo backs Boehnke.
Privately, Britain and Boehnke have two supporters each. Presuming the candidates vote for themselves, that sets up a 3-3 vote, with Councilman-elect Steve Lee casting the tie breaking ballot.
Neither Lee nor McKay was available for comment.
Friday, Parish declined to say if he’ll support Britain. He said he wants to see how the wheeling and dealing plays out.
“I really don’t have a comment on who I’m going to vote for at this time,” he said.
Britain and Boehnke told the Herald they’re interested in becoming Kennewick’s next mayor.
“It’s up to the council to decide,” Britain said.
He cited his experience in the pro-tem role and his leadership in the Association of Washington Cities as experience that prepared him for the job. He is vice president of the statewide organization and will take over as president in June.
Britain said it is important to continue with current leadership. It’s not the time to “change course,” he said.
Boehnke said he would be “honored” to serve if selected.
Elected in 2015, Boehnke serves on the Benton-Franklin Council of Governments and several of its committees related to transportation, policy and lodging.
Young said his decision to step down as mayor was long planned. Two years ago, he informed colleagues his current term would be his last.
He said 2017 was a particularly difficult year personally and professionally.
He was a defendant in a retaliation suit against his employer, Mission Support Alliance.
A Benton County Superior Court jury awarded the plaintiff $8.5 million.
The case inspired an ethics complaint as well.
Young said he plans to retire from MSA in the coming year, after which he will have more time for the city. His council term expires in 2019.
In Pasco, sitting Mayor Matt Watkins confirmed he would consider it a pleasure to serve again.
Pasco enters 2018 in a unique situation, with five of the seven council members new to the job. Watkins and Councilman Saul Martinez are the only veterans.
Pasco residents sent the five newcomers to the council in the city’s first district-based election.
Pasco Mayor Pro Tem Rebecca Francik lost her re-election bid to David Milne.
In Richland, Mayor Bob Thompson won his re-election campaign, but under the city’s unusual system his term is only for two years instead of four.