A retired doctor. A young mother who wanted a better life for her kids. A cancer clinic director. A developer.
They are just a few of the record 31 people who hope to replace Matt Boehnke on the Kennewick City Council for at least this year. The seven-member board sets policy and approves the budget for the city of 79,000.
Boehnke resigned from his at-large post in December after being elected to the state Legislature. The winning candidate will serve through the end of 2019, when an election will be held.
The council plans to pick the replacement after a marathon interview session of all 31, starting at 7 a.m. Saturday at city hall, 210 W. Sixth.
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Applicants told the Herald they want to bring diverse voices, particularly women and minorities, to the council. Many said they’ve thrived in Kennewick and they want to make sure the next generation can too.
Many thought the overwhelming number of candidates reflects a growing interest in politics at all level. In 2013, the council interviewed 10 would-be applicants.
The city is not releasing the candidate applications before Saturday’s interviews.
Here is a little about the applicants the Herald was able to reach this week:
New to local politics
- Chariss Warner is ministries director for the Tri-Cities Union Gospel Mission. She wants to make sure Kennewick remains the same “amazing” place she moved to in 2002 as a single mother looking for a safe place to raise her kids. Today, she’s a college graduate, as are her daughters. She wants to make sure others have the same opportunities she did.
- Erin Mulka is a Coast Guard veteran who moved to Kennewick for a job with Benton-Franklin Human Services in 2016, after she graduated from the University of Washington. She now works in aging and long-term care and on children’s welfare. As a social workers, she sees the range of issues that the community faces and wants to do more.
- Richard Pirtle, who works in IT at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, said this is an opportunity for someone who doesn’t have the usual connections and resources for a formal campaign. Pirtle said he grew up in a lower income household and wants to make sure that voice is represented.
- Jerry Lewis has held various leadership posts in the community and is director for Virtual Campus and eLearning at Columbia Basin College. The Tri-City native said this is be a great way to learn about what’s involved in the position before running for a four-year commitment.
- Allan Erhart is a retired engineer who worked at the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard, Hanford and the Umatilla Chemical Depot. He wants to make a difference in a city he thinks is moving in the right direction. He’s excited about redevelopment of Vista Field and wants to help small businesses grow.
- Julian Jensen is a carpenter and representative for the Pacific Northwest Regional Council of Carpenters. He settled in Kennewick in 2006 and fell in love with it. Jensen said he’s been able to buy a home, raise his children and build a life. He wants to ensure future generations have the same opportunity.
- Brandon Pocasangre is a Kennewick High School graduate whose family was featured in the Herald in 2012 when the community rallied to help them after his young sister’s illness.
Have run before
- Lindy Verhei, a leasing agent for an affordable housing community, is a familiar face for city hall watchers. She ran for city council in 2017 and will do so again this year, regardless of who is chosen Saturday. Verhei registered her campaign with the Washington Public Disclosure Commission in November when she announced her plans on social media. Verhei said she’s committed to contributing diverse points of view.
- Leo Perales is another familiar face. He is an inspector for a local engineering company who ran for council in 2017 and for state senate in 2018. He’s served on the Benton County Planning Commission and other boards. Perales, who is Latino, said he’s committed to pushing for a more diverse council.
- Ed Pacheco serves on the Kennewick Planning Commission and is another campaign veteran, running for council in 2013, 2015 and 2017.
- Christy Watts is the retired Ben Franklin Transit executive who ran for council in 2017. She lost the election but not her passion for city government. She’s a member of Kennewick’s Block Grant Advisory Committee and is interested in economic development, the city’s urban growth boundary, Columbia Park and community safety.
- Jim Millbauer is a Hanford pipefitter who ran for city council in 2017. His priorities have been economic development and supporting new and existing businesses.
- Kristopher Lapp, an entrepreneur and food blogger is the co-founder of Solar Spirits Distillery. He has served on Richland’s Economic Development committee, where he owns a business. A Kennewick resident said joining the council would elevate what he’s done and allow him to contribute to the city where he lives.
- Chuck DeGooyer is chief executive officer of the Tri-Cities Cancer Center and a former executive of Kennewick General Hospital. DeGooyer is active in Kiwanis Club and United Way. He’s been interested in running for city council, calling it an extension of his community service. DeGooyer said he loves the path the city is on . He would focus on jobs, the arts and maintaining a vibrant community.
- Leonard Dreisbach, M.D., is a retired Kennewick obstetrician who was appointed to the Kennewick Public Hospital District board in 2017. He practiced at Trios Health for 12 years prior to retiring.
- Dee Boyle serves on Kennewick’s Arts Commission, reflecting her interest in the city’s cultural side. She is a Kennewick native who said she is grateful she didn’t have to leave her hometown to carve out a prosperous career. She wants to keep the city accessible to future generations.
- Kurt Beckley leads a commercial and agriculture lending team at HomeStreet Bank. He served on Kennewick’s Parks and Recreation Commission for six years, at a time when the Southridge area was first developing. It was a positive experience that he hopes to replicate as a council member.
- Chuck Torelli is a Kennewick Planning Commission member who regularly attends city council sessions as well as Benton County Commission meetings.
- Brooke Yount is the principal with You & I Framing & Gallery.
- Brad Beauchamp is principal with BMB Development, a Kennewick residential and commercial firm.
Here are the other applicants who could not be reached by the Herald: Richard Aubrey, James Daniel, Dennis Dean, Robert Garrison, Daniel Johnson, Jacob Langston, Joshua Lindberg, Lee Schwartz, Rockney Stoddard and Kerry Wright.