Pasco’s mayor is ready to step down from council. Here’s who wants to replace him

As Matt Watkins prepares to leave the Pasco City Council after 16 years, three hope to succeed him in Position 7.

Zahra Roach, who previously ran as a Democrat for Franklin County Commission, Patrick Guettner, a retired engineer and former chair of the Franklin County Republican Party, and Abel Campos, a Pasco middle school teacher, are vying for the only at-large seat on the seven-member council.

The candidates all live west of Road 68.

Council positions are nonpartisan.

The current council selected Watkins to serve as the city’s mayor, a largely honorary position. The council will select a new mayor in January.

Watkins’ successor in Position 7 will not automatically become the mayor.

The top two finishers in the Aug. 6 primary will advance to the general election. Ballots have been mailed and must be returned or postmarked by election day to count.

Two additional city council seats are on the ballot. Ruben Alvarado is running unopposed for re-election to his District 2 post. Incumbent David Milne is being challenged by Isaac “Ike” Myhrun for his District 5 seat.

The outcome of the primary in those races is advisory.

About the candidates

In the order in which they filed for election:

Roach, 36, graduated from Pasco High School and attended Columbia Basin College and WSU Tri-Cities. She taught in Pasco schools and is raising her three young children.

She is the chair of the Pasco Planning Commission.

Smart growth and preserving land for commercial and industrial development are among her top priorities.

Guettner, 73, is a 20-year Pasco resident who worked as an engineer and earned a law degree from Memphis State University.

The father of three grown sons, he has been involved with local politics, including regional zoning commissions.

Preserving Pasco’s quality of life in the face of rapid growth is his top priority.

Campos, 42, was born and raised in Pasco and is a teacher at Stevens Middle School, where his youngest is about to start middle school. He is also a pastor and serves on the city’s planning commission.

His top priority is preserving community unity as Pasco confronts growth that’s expected to add 50,000 residents in coming decades.

Key issues

During a recent forum sponsored by the Benton-Franklin League of Women Voters, the candidates were asked how they would address several issues

Taxation and fees

Roach said smart growth will develop the city’s commercial and industrial tax base, helping the homeowners who shoulder the cost of city services. Roach said she will reject efforts to convert commercial land into residential land.

Guettner agreed that building the commercial tax base is needed. He opposes charging developers impact fees to mitigate impacts on roads, schools and so forth.

The added cost will drive developers and jobs elsewhere, he said.

Campos said residents need to understand the services their taxes pay for, most of them critical. But he too said industrial and commercial development will strengthen the tax base.

Housing the homeless

All three enthusiastically support a nonprofit’s plan to build a 50-unit project to house the Tri-Cities’ most vulnerable residents, those who have been homeless for a year or longer.

Catholic Charities Eastern Washington is applying for tax credits and other funding to support a project at an undisclosed location.

Guettner said he appreciated seeing the private sector take on a challenge that is often left to government. But he said the community has to address the growing challenge of homelessness.

Campos agreed and said he’s actively cheering the service organization’s efforts to secure the money it needs.

Roach said she is proud to support the idea, but notes the project highlights a larger issue posed by rising housing costs. She said 84 percent of Pasco housing is single-family dwellings, with dire consequences for lower-income families seeking rentals.

Addressing anti-Latino, anti-immigrant rhetoric

Campos would confront the fear sparked by political rhetoric targeting Latinos and immigrants. About 55 percent of Pasco’s 75,000 residents are Latino, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

Campos said the city can respect federal law by responding with education and facts to help people know and understand their rights.

Roach said she would be guided by Pasco’s diversity commission, which was convened to guide the city. As a council, she said the city’s leaders could direct law enforcement to focus on offenses.

Guettner said getting involved with charitable causes can help people overcome their biases. But he said he hasn’t encountered a problem.

“I don’t see a lot of conflict myself,” he said.

Campaign finance

Roach has raised $6,230, according to filings with the Public Disclosure Commission, Washington’s election regulator.

Her top supporters include Sue Frost and John Roach, who each contributed $1,000. Matt Watkins contributed $500.

Guettner and Campos both registered as mini-filers. They will not raise more than $5,000 and are exempt from filing certain detailed financial reports.

How to vote

Ballots have been mailed with prepaid return envelopes. It is not too late to register. July 20 was the deadline to register online or by mail, but voters can register in person until election day, Aug. 6.

Visit sos.wa.gov/elections/voters/ for information about voting and eligibility.

Voters can check the status of returned ballot online voter.votewa.gov/WhereToVote.aspx

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