Local

4 candidates vie for Richland's Position 6

RICHLAND -- Richland voters have a diverse menu of candidates from which to choose in replacing outgoing City Councilwoman Sheila Sullivan in the Position 6 race on the primary ballot.

Candidates include:

* A retired Pacific Northwest National Laboratory worker who leads the city's volunteer Parks & Recreation Commission;

* A blue collar maintenance worker championing the working class;

* A ConAgra supervisor advocating a better business climate;

* And a practicing attorney/political activist who leads the Benton County GOP.

Voters will have a chance to narrow the field to two in Tuesday's primary.

The top two vote-getters move on to the Nov. 8 general election.

The position pays $1,038 per month.

Council terms typically are four years, but the winner of whichever race is closest in the general election will get a two-year term. That's how Richland's charter ensures a majority of the council is up for election every two years.

Terry Christensen

After serving a decade on the city's Parks & Recreation Commission, Christensen, 67, said he would like the opportunity to serve the city in a broader capacity.

Christensen said he believes his experience on the commission gives him a leg up over other candidates in understanding how city government works.

"I don't underestimate that experience," he said. "I have teamed a lot with the management. I know how things function and who to go to. I think my life experiences, financial experience, working knowledge of city government and proven relationships with those people will go a long ways."

He said the quality of life in Richland would be among his top priorities if elected. Toward that end, he would like to see the city focus on revitalizing its core -- especially the Uptown Shopping Center -- and developing Swift Boulevard as a medical district.

"I would like to see that grow not only for job growth, but to make sure we have the greatest health care available," he said.

He also would like to see the city better link its network of trails to make Richland a more walkable city.

Christensen retired from PNNL on Aug. 1 and has a background in finance. He said his retirement was part of what prompted him to run for the council, as he will have enough free time to fulfill the responsibilities of the office.

He is a lifelong resident who has volunteered for community organizations for more than 25 years, primarily with youth sports organizations and tourism-related committees.

* Website: christensen2011.com

Eldon Eskeli

Eskeli, 46, is a ground maintenance worker for the Columbia Point Golf Course who said he threw his hat into the ring because Richland has become unaffordable for many blue collar workers like himself.

"Richland is a great place. You can't beat it. But I have friends who live in Pasco or live in Kennewick who would like to live in Richland, and they all say they can't afford it," he said.

He is a lifelong resident who said the best way to make Richland more affordable is to bring in well-paying blue collar jobs that don't require advanced degrees.

"Not high-tech jobs. Not Hanford jobs. Common jobs," he said.

He also believes keeping taxes low is important to people who are working minimum wage jobs or living on fixed incomes.

"I want to represent those people," he said. "I want to make sure when there's going to be an increase in some fee or tax, they have a voice (on the council) to say, 'Not a lot of people in Richland can afford that.' "

One thing he would do if elected is work to eliminate impact fees collected when homes are built to keep costs down for prospective residents.

Eskeli said he would bring a fresh perspective and new ideas to the council, and be a voice for the people.

"If you have a concern or a gripe, I'm going to listen to it. If you stop me in a store, I'm going to listen to you," he said.

Eskeli said he works early mornings and would have enough time outside of his job to meet the responsibilities of serving on the council.

* No website

Creighton Knight

Knight, 37, is a shift supervisor for ConAgra Lamb Weston, and said he believes his practical business experience would be an asset to the council.

He also said he believes that as the only member under 40, he would bring a youthful energy and fresh perspective.

"My vision for Richland -- I want to make sure the city is acting in a fiscally responsible manner and that we're wise stewards of taxpayer money," he said. "My vision is to make sure we're making good decisions and have good priorities."

He said Richland has done a good job of managing its budget, and he would work to ensure that continues.

He pledged not to vote to increase property taxes if elected.

"With the right priorities and efficiencies, we can meet the essential needs of the city ... while not raising taxes," he said.

His priorities as a council member would be to preserve police and fire services.

"People have to be able to feel safe in their neighborhoods," he said.

He also would be an enthusiastic champion for economic development and for making Richland more business-friendly, he said.

"I would ask, 'Why are we losing out on some projects to Kennewick or Pasco? What do we need to do to get those projects ourselves?' " he said.

His economic development focus would be to bring in more retail to expand the city's tax base.

"I definitely want to make sure that's part of the overall agenda of the city council, that someone is keeping an eye on that ball and getting those businesses in here," he said.

Knight said he works a flexible schedule and would be able to adjust his work schedule as necessary to meet the responsibilities of serving on the council.

* Website: richlandknight.com

Patrick McBurney

McBurney, 45, is a practicing attorney and chairman of the Benton County GOP.

He said he likely would resign from the GOP position if elected to the council rather than try to juggle both responsibilities.

McBurney, who has lived in Richland on and off since 1981 and permanently since 1997, said he's running for city council because he's had a lifelong interest in government and a desire to serve.

"It's a great community," he said. "Sorry Kennewick. Sorry Pasco. It's the best community in the Tri-Cities."

McBurney said he would bring a good understanding of public policy and budgeting to the council if elected.

"I'm offering myself up as a candidate because I believe I would be a good fit. I'm not seeking this as a stepping stone to a higher office. ... I would like the opportunity to serve the citizens of Richland," he said.

As a council member, economic development and business growth would be his top priority. He also would step up efforts to diversify the city's economy in preparation for the eventual closure of Hanford.

"Some people have looked at Hanford as a 'jobs for life' type situation," he said. "We have to seriously look at what happens to Hanford in 10 or 15 years. The federal government's finances may be in such a state that may not be able to fund (cleanup) or will redefine the mission. The city will have to look to that to develop a way to keep the tax base intact and fund the services we currently have, even if there are lean years."

He said the best way to plan for a post-Hanford Richland is to bring in new jobs to replace the old ones that will go away.

He also would like to see the city encourage private developers to revitalize the city's core and the Uptown Shopping Center.

But overall he sees good things happening in Richland.

"I think the city of Richland is doing a fabulous job," he said. "It would be an honor for me to be a part of that. I want to continue the positive momentum, and I believe I'm the best candidate for doing that."

* Website: patrickmcburney.org

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