Pasco’s mayor is pleased so many candidates are pursuing public offices this year, even if it means facing three challengers of his own in the Aug. 4 primary election.
The fatal shooting of Antonio Zambrano-Montes in downtown Pasco in early February has raised interest in civic issues and challenges to the status quo should be encouraged, Matt Watkins told the Herald.
“That all said, I am the best candidate,” he said, noting he’s spent his past 12 years on the city council pushing economic development, coordinating efforts with local schools and working to unify the council.
But his opponents — Bertha Aranda Glatt, Robert Sandoval and Edison Valerio — say it’s time for a new voice on the council, particularly one pushing for better policing and more mental health and social services that could have prevented Zambrano-Montes’ death and the damage done to Pasco’s image.
Pasco council members are elected to four-year terms and Watkins’ seat is an at-large position. Council members receive $1,000 a month, while the mayor, who is elected by council members, receives $1,300 a month.
Ballots have already been mailed to registered voters and are due in an official dropbox or in the Franklin County auditor’s office by 8 p.m. Aug. 4. In a primary, the two candidates who receive the most votes advance to the general election, regardless of party preference.
Watkins, 47, is a software engineer for Lockheed Martin.
Glatt, 48, is a former social worker now working for St. Luke’s Center of Occupational Health & Education in Kennewick.
Sandoval, 67, a former Pasco School Board member, retired in 2012 from the state’s Department of Commerce after serving as a regional services manager.
Valerio, 40, is a bank manager with leadership experience with the Tri-Cities Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and Downtown Pasco Development Authority.
Watkins said he’s proud of what the city has accomplished during his time on the council. Collaboration with the school district has led to split costs with maintaining parks next to schools and building sidewalks for students, including on land outside the city near Chiawana High School. The council also has begun to work together more on issues facing the city.
While the city’s population isn’t booming quite like it once was, it’s still in need of economic development and that’s led to him supporting projects like installing infrastructure and other amenities to entice manufacturing and industry.
His opponents acknowledge that economic development is important. Valerio says in campaign materials that he’s long been part of efforts to help small businesses and he can bring that energy to the council.
“I truly believe the city council needs new ideas, a new perspective and the right leadership in order to create a better Pasco for all of its citizens,” he said in a statement to the Herald.
But Glatt and Sandoval said Watkins and the council have narrowed their efforts far too much to either the commercial center around Road 68 or downtown and with mixed results.
“Pasco used to be a place people wanted to go for a good time but they don’t want to do that anymore,” Sandoval said.
All three challengers, along with Watkins, also called for better mental health services in the community and better training for police in dealing with people suffering form a mental illness or other crisis in the wake of the Zambrano-Montes shooting in February. Glatt questioned the judgment of allowing the Gospel Union Mission in downtown to expand without ensuring there would be a subsequent growth in services to help the men staying there.
While there is a sitting council member who is Latino, the challengers said there is still an issue of making sure the city’s Latino community, which makes up the bulk of its population, is properly represented.
“I just think we could capitalize on the resources we have, on the diversity we have,” Glatt said.