Benton County political leader and Tri-City businessman dies

Bill Berkman, left, the chairman of the Benton County Republic Party, posed with Washington state Sen. Mark Schoesler.
Bill Berkman, left, the chairman of the Benton County Republic Party, posed with Washington state Sen. Mark Schoesler. Courtesy Benton County Republican Party

The chairman of the Benton County Republican Party has died unexpectedly.

Allen William Berkman, better known as Bill, was 55.

Benton County Coroner Bill Leach said he appeared to have died from natural causes, but an autopsy is planned to confirm that.

Paramedics were called when he was seen unresponsive in a car near a restaurant on Queensgate Drive in Richland early in the evening Monday. He could not be revived.

He told a Herald reporter five days earlier that he was fighting pneumonia.

Berkman, a former manager for software companies in the Silicon Valley, moved to the Tri-Cities about 15 years ago.

He owned the MenZone, an upscale men’s barber shop with locations in Kennewick and Pasco.

He became involved with the Benton County Republican Party as a precinct committee officer in 2016.

He was elected as the chairman at the end of 2016 and was re-elected in 2018.

Champion of conservative causes

His passion was for conservative causes and he used his skills refined in the corporate world to lead the county party, Dallas Parr, vice chairwoman pro tem and secretary of the county party, said in a statement.

He inspired many people to get involved in the Tri-Cities area community, she said.

“Bill’s energy and dedication to his community and the Republican cause was unmatched,” said Caleb Heimlich, chairman of the Washington State Republican Party, in a message to members of the party’s State Committee on Tuesday afternoon.

“Bill always knew the right questions to ask and enjoyed lively political discussion,” Heimlich wrote.

He described Berkman as a “hard worker with a great sense of humor” and a “tough leader with a warm heart.”

Berkman was “a big voice for the Republican party in the area,” Leach said.

Berkman met with people “almost daily to advance our conservative value and promote citizenship,” said Jerry Martin, chairman of the county nominating committee that first put Berkman’s name forward for county party leadership.

“He was always so calm and polite and respectful to everyone’s opinion,” Martin said.

One of Berkman’s initiatives was offering party endorsements of conservative candidates running for office for nonpartisan positions in Benton County, such as school board and city council seats.

“He was committed to our platform, furthering the work of conservatism in Benton County and reaching out to build bridges with people of other viewpoints,” Parr said. “The Benton County Republican Party will miss him greatly.”

Senior staff writer Annette Cary covers Hanford, energy, the environment, science and health for the Tri-City Herald. She’s been a news reporter for more than 30 years in the Pacific Northwest.