Newest Kennewick council member chosen

KENNEWICK -- It took three votes to break a tie, but in the end Greg Jones was the unanimous choice Saturday for Kennewick's new city council member.

Jones, the Department of Energy's chief financial officer for the Hanford site, beat out James Hempstead to fill the vacancy left by former Councilwoman Sharon Brown.

Council members were split 3-3 on Jones and Hempstead.

On the third vote -- after the board praised all seven final applicants -- Councilmen Bob Olson, Paul Parish and Bob Parks changed their votes for Jones.

Hempstead, a Richland fire battalion chief, was looking to reclaim the position he held for 12 years before losing the seat in the 2009 election.

A surprised Jones was sworn in immediately, and now must prepare for his first council meeting Tuesday night.

"I really appreciate the unanimous vote," Jones, 47, said as he took his seat at the council table. "I'll do my very best to serve the city."

Brown stepped down earlier this year after she was named the newest state senator from the 8th Legislative District, replacing Benton County Commissioner Jerome Delvin.

Jones will have to win election in November to keep the Ward 2 seat, which covers the central part of the city of about 75,000 residents.

Council members make $992 a month, with the mayor and mayor pro tem making slightly more.

Mayor Steve Young and his colleagues held a special meeting Saturday at City Hall to interview each candidate.

Eleven people applied but one didn't meet the residency requirement. By Friday, three additional applicants withdrew.

For the interview process, each person was given the same eight questions and had five minutes to review them before a 20-minute session with the council.

In addition to Jones and Hempstead, the council talked to Diane Crawford, Brad Beauchamp, Eduardo Pacheco, Johanna Davis and Jerry Kurtz.

The board met in executive session for less than 20 minutes to discuss their qualifications, before returning to council chambers to take a public vote.

Councilman John Hubbard -- who voted for Jones all three times -- said any applicant on the list could serve in the job and thanked them for their interest because "politics is sort of a bloodsport."

After the two tied votes, Mayor Young said they could table the discussion for a later time, but Parks called for another vote.

Jones said he was somewhat interested in a council position before Brown's departure, but realized this vacancy was the perfect opportunity for him. When the vote was split, Jones said he was at peace with Hempstead winning because he knew the firefighter also would serve the city well.

Jones, who moved to the city 20 years ago, was on the Kennewick Planning Commission for two years. He was vice chairman.

His focus is continuing the city's industrial and manufacturing growth, particularly around Interstate 82 in south Kennewick, maintaining its status as a regional health hub.

Jones and his wife, Arlene, have two children: Veronica, 19, who's a sophomore in college in Montana, and Hogan, a 15-year-old freshman at Tri-Cities Prep in Pasco.