Millbauer v. Del Gesso: Here’s the Herald pick for the Kennewick City Council | Editorial

Former Kennewick Mayor Steve Young passed away in May shortly after filing for re-election. He had been a steady force on the city council since 2009.

Fortunately for voters, the top two candidates who emerged from the primary to fill Young’s seat are both excellent choices.

Jim Millbauer is a Hanford pipefitter who has served 20 years as the grievance chair for the Hanford Atomic Metal Trades Council. In that role he has helped union and business representatives solve problems and find common ground.

Millbauer also has served on the United Way board and with the Meals on Wheels kitchen, Bikes for Tykes, Second Harvest, American Legion and Tri-City youth baseball and softball programs.

Russel Del Gesso owns Ed & Moe’s Pawn Shop and Guitar Bar in Kennewick, and has been active in the Historic Downtown Kennewick Partnership, being named Downtowner of the Year in 2014. He served as president of the group in 2015.

In addition to being a business owner, he has real estate marketing and sales experience. Del Gesso also is a board member for the Tri-Cities Amateur Hockey Association, and was named the organization’s Volunteer of the Year in 2018.

Going by their backgrounds, their thoughtful and candid responses to our questions and their overall good humor, either would do a fine job.

Millbauer, though, has been a community volunteer in a wider capacity and we think his experience from the labor sector would add a missing piece on the current council. His negotiating skills also give him an edge, particularly because certain issues have splintered the city council and caused hard feelings.

Both candidates are supporters of youth sports, and we bet they would be advocates of activities related to the city’s Parks and Recreation department. And, when it comes to economic development, both appear to believe in smart growth for the city.

They do differ on the issue of marijuana. Millabauer said it is the No. 1 topic that comes up when he is doorbelling, and that he hears mixed opinions.

Kennewick currently has a moratorium against cannabis businesses, and Millbauer said some people tell him they want it lifted, while others say it should remain in place.

The Washington Liquor and Cannabis Board has authorized at least three marijuana retail outlets in Kennewick, but they cannot open under the city’s prohibition.

He favors allowing Kennewick citizens to vote on whether to lift the marijuana ban, and then follow the citizens’ wishes.

Del Gesso wants the moratorium to stay. He has concerns about drugs in the community, and also opposes the needle exchange in Kennewick. He said it provides legal ways to use illegal drugs, and ends up enabling addicts.

Millbauer said he respectfully disagrees with Del Gesso’s stance. He said the state has mandated the program and that it keeps dangerous, dirty needles off the streets. He believes it will help some drug addicts break their addiction.

Even though they disagreed on a few social topics, they were extremely civil to each another during our editorial board meeting. Both appear to have the leadership skills needed to become an outstanding elected official, and choosing one over the other was not easy.

In the end, Millbauer gets our recommendation because he’s proven himself to be a good listener who can help mediate opposing sides — a valuable skill when dealing with contentious issues.

Coming from a union, he also would bring a different perspective to the council.

The Tri-City Herald recommends Jim Millbauer for Kennewick City Council.


Behind Our Election Recommendations

Who decides the recommendations?

Members of The Tri-City Herald editorial board interview political candidates, as well as advocates and opponents of ballot measures. The editorial board is comprised of experienced opinion journalists and community members, and is separate from The Herald’s newsroom. Conversations are on the record.

What does the recommendation process entail?

Whenever possible, The Herald editorial board meets with opposing candidates at the same time. The questions are largely focused on a candidate’s qualifications and goals, and the hour-long session resembles a conversation more than a scripted interview. The editorial board then discuss the candidates in each race and decides who to recommend. In the case of ballot measures, we strive to have representatives from both sides of the issue in the room at the same time so we can get past the political rhetoric and obtain firm answers. Board members seek to reach a consensus on our recommendations, but not every decision is unanimous.

Is the editorial board partisan?

No. In making recommendations, members of the editorial board consider which candidates are well prepared to represent their constituents — not whether they agree with us or belong to a particular political party. We evaluate candidates’ relevant experience, their readiness for office, their depth of knowledge of key issues, their understanding of public policy and their ability to work with the current board . We’re seeking candidates who are thoughtful and who offer more than just party-line talking points. The editorial board will endorse both Republicans and Democrats.

Why are the editorials unsigned?

Our election recommendations reflect the collective views of The Herald’s editorial board — not just the opinion of one writer. Board members all discuss and contribute ideas to each editorial.