Challengers file to run for 2 Pasco council seats

Two of the four Pasco City Council members wanting to keep their seat in the fall election will face challengers.

Councilmen Al Yenney and Saul Martinez, Mayor Matt Watkins and Mayor Pro-tem Rebecca Francik are seeking re-election.

Francik, an educator, could not be reached for comment by deadline Friday. She was first elected in 1996 and will be running again for the District 5 seat.

Her challenger, John Talbott, a six-year resident of Pasco, said he filed to run because "people need to be involved in what is going on in their government and we need new people involved in our government, not the same people year in and year out. We need change. We need someone to bring change to city of Pasco."

The Air Force retiree said he thinks he can help move Pasco in that direction of change. Among the areas he said he'd like to focus on are economic development and the condition of the city.

"What you see when you look at Pasco, it's not a pretty picture. We need to do something about our growth management, bring jobs into the city of Pasco instead of letting them go across river," he said.

He said the city needs to build up its tax base, but not on backs on homeowners.

Yenney, 64, is running for re-election after his first term.

He will face challenger Andrew Johnson. Johnson could not be reached for comment by deadline.

Yenney said he feels he has brought common sense to the council and helped make the city more transparent to the public.

Yenney said he would like to see more diversity added to the city's recreational opportunities, such as building proposed soccer fields so that frisbee golf can be played there too.

He also would like to help continue to make Pasco safe and more economically sound.

Some of the upcoming challenges include the Pasco School District's request for impact fees and a decision on whether to supply sewer service to the Port of Walla Walla, Yenney said.

"I'm not afraid to tackle problems that are controversial," he said.

Yenney is semi-retired and owns Al's Repair in Pasco.

Martinez, a Hanford environmental compliance officer, said one year just isn't long enough to accomplish everything.

The former Pasco School Board member was appointed to fill the District 4 position left vacant by former Mayor Joyce Olson's resignation last year.

Martinez said he wants to help people and be part of the community. And he's fulfilling his commitment to run for the two years remaining of Olson's term.

Martinez, 42, said he would like to help attract more commercial development to Pasco to build the city's tax base and would like to see the city pursue grants to develop more recreation areas in the city.

The city needs more sports fields and gym space for its growing population, he said.

Martinez also owns Desert Plateau Transport Inc. of Pasco, a small trucking business.

Watkins, a software engineer at Lockheed Martin, is running for his third term. It will be his second time running unopposed, after being one of seven candidates competing for the at-large seat.

Watkins said he wants to continue to help shape the growth in Pasco and make sure it continues to be a good place to live.

He said he's proud of how Pasco has collaborated more with the rest of the Tri-Cities during his terms on council. For example, Kennewick, Pasco and Richland recently formed the Regional Public Facility District.

Watkins said he thinks that it will become more challenging to continue to maintain and improve city services without adjusting revenue. So far, the council has managed to lower the city property tax levy rate, he said.

Watkins said he also wants the city to be open to working with the school district on the needs the district has to educate an increasingly large student population.

That's important for the overall quality of life of community residents, he said.