The challenger for Franklin County clerk criticized the longtime incumbent for his military service during a candidate forum Monday.
Byron Pugh, who is running against Mike Killian for clerk in the general election, repeatedly emphasized how he would be a full-time, hands-on administrator. He said that philosophically sets him apart from Killian, a Navy reservist who was deployed to the Middle East in 2012.
Killian responded that he is a full-time executive who rolls up his sleeves and helps customers at the counter and fills in for courtroom duties in addition to his other responsibilities as clerk. While deployed, he communicated with county officials and employees via email and Skype.
The clerk’s office was one of three races featured during the Pasco Chamber of Commerce forum at the Red Lion, which attracted more than 90 people. All six candidates for clerk, sheriff and commissioner district 3 are Republican.
Pasco Police Capt. Jim Raymond is running against longtime incumbent Richard Lathim for county sheriff.
Melinda Didier, chairwoman of the Franklin County Planning Commission, is challenging Rick Miller for county commissioner district 3.
Pugh, who was a Benton County chief deputy clerk and interim county clerk, also criticized Killian for his party switch from Democrat to Republican. Pugh has been a lifelong Republican committed to smaller government and less taxes, he said.
Pugh claims Killian, who was appointed in 2001 and then elected, has a liberal bias and needlessly asked for more staff. Pugh ran for election as Benton County clerk in 2006 but lost.
Killian countered that party politics has nothing to do with the operation of the county clerk’s office. He said he is a fiscal conservative and refuted the claim that he asked for new employees each year.
A position gained in 2006 when a judge was added was cut the next year, Killian said. Two positions added in 2012 to help with debt collection were paid for by debt collections.
The county clerk’s office has grown its debt collections and is ranked top in the state for those collections, Killian said. That means less costs covered by the public’s tax dollars.
Pugh challenged that, saying the county was ninth, but Killian said Pugh was looking at the number of case filings and not collections.
This is the first time Killian has faced an opponent for reelection to the clerk’s office.
Lathim, who has been sheriff for 28 years and is facing his first challenger in 12 years, said he’s kept his commitment to reduce crime in Franklin County.
“We now live in one of the safest counties in the state,” he said.
Cutting down crime even more requires being aware of what the next trend will likely be and addressing that early, Lathim said. He said that is why the Tri-City gang problems are less than what other communities are facing.
Raymond said it’s important to identify the reasons behind the crimes and then work with the community to address them.
Running for county sheriff has been a longtime goal, Raymond said, adding that his 31 years in the Pasco police department have given him experience and training that qualify him for sheriff.
Lathim is opposed to switching Franklin County’s radio system from VHF to 800 megahertz as part of the effort to consolidate 911 dispatch operations in Benton and Franklin counties, he said.
Lathim said 800 megahertz, which Benton County uses, would not provide coverage in all areas of Franklin County. But a patch in the system would allow Franklin County deputies to communicate with other agencies.
Raymond said a patch isn’t a long-term fix, so the department should consider radio equipment that is capable of using both 800 megahertz and VHF.
COMMISSIONER, DISTRICT 3
Didier would like to see faster implementation of the new county-wide accounting software system, she said. It’s part of the checks and balances county officials have adopted since the discovery of a $2.8 million embezzlement by Dennis Huston, former accounting and administrative director for the county’s public works department.
Miller, who was first elected eight years ago, said the county is already in the second phase of implementing the software, which typically takes up to five years to install.
Didier, an administrative assistant in Kennewick’s planning department, has a balanced way of looking at issues that would serve her well as commissioner, she said.
“I believe that I definitely can make a difference,” she said.
Miller said it’s rewarding to help improve the quality of life for the county, which is the fastest-growing in the state. He has faced new challenges each term.
“I am willing to take a tough position when necessary,” he said
Kristi Pihl: 509-582-1512; firstname.lastname@example.org; Twitter: @KristiAPihl