Commissioner takes big lead

Parks & Recreation Commissioner Terry Christensen was the breakout candidate in the primary for Richland City Council Position 6 on Tuesday.

Christensen, 67, pulled in double the votes of his closest competitor, Benton County GOP Chairman Patrick McBurney.

Tuesday's preliminary results showed Christensen earning 2,618 votes, or 49 percent. McBurney had 1,284 votes, or 24 percent.

Creighton Knight had 1,141 votes, or 21 percent, and Eldon Eskeli had 300 votes, or 6 percent.

If those trends hold as the remaining ballots are counted, Christensen and McBurney will face off in the Nov. 8 general election.

Christensen was endorsed by outgoing Councilwoman Sheila Sullivan, who opted not to run this year, because of his decade of experience on the city's Parks & Recreation Commission, including being its current chairman.

Christensen told the Herald in a recent interview that he believes his experience on the commission gives him a leg up on other candidates in understanding how city government works.

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.

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

Christensen retired from Pacific Northwest National Laboratory in Richland 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.

McBurney, 45, is a practicing attorney and chairman of the Benton County GOP, but said he likely would resign from the GOP position if elected to the council rather than try to juggle both responsibilities.

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

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

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. 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.

Knight, 37, is a ConAgra Lamb Weston shift supervisor who said his priorities would be promoting economic development and fiscal priorities in city budgeting.

He previously ran against Councilwoman Sandra Kent in 2009.

Eskeli, 46, is a ground maintenance worker at Columbia Point Golf Course and ran on a platform of making Richland more affordable for blue collar workers.

Additional ballots will be counted today and Thursday as the last of mailed ballots trickle in this week. Election officials also will count ballots Monday and Friday next week, before issuing the unofficial tallies prior to certification of the election.

Election results will be certified Aug. 31.