Franklin commissioners — re-elect Peck, Koch

By the Tri-City HeraldOctober 12, 2012 

The two candidates vying to represent District 1 on the Franklin County Board of Commissioners made for a lively meeting with the editorial board.

Incumbent Brad Peck has ruffled some feathers in his first term on the board, but he also has studied the issues and takes his job seriously. His background as an Air Force officer clearly shows through in his approach to the job.

Any sitting commissioner in Franklin County is going to be dogged by the embezzlement scandal that has rocked the county in recent months. The former accountant for the public works department is accused of stealing nearly $3 million over nearly two decades.

Investigations show Peck and fellow Commissioner Rick Miller knew or should have known there were problems with public works employee Dennis Huston years before he was fired and charged with theft.

But Peck remains adamant that had he known there were any questions about Huston's work, he would have been the first one asking for an investigation. And we tend to believe him.

Peck speaks his mind and is direct. We don't believe he would have hesitated to seek answers or have been satisfied without getting them.

And he isn't one to back down, even if others think he is wrong, as was the case with his ideas for the TRAC facility.

Peck's plan to let the Pasco Regional Facilities District turn it into an aquatics center put him at odds with Franklin County's ag community. He lost the argument but holds firm that the community missed a huge opportunity by not putting the water park at TRAC.

His opponent, Mark Faith, a county building inspector, believes Peck should resign because of some confusion over the amount Peck received for his vehicle allowance.

Faith is a county insider and clearly sees a need for a change in leadership. But we question his commitment.

He freely admits he is living in a temporary abode in west Pasco. We're not sure if he pays rent and have concerns about the potential conflict of interest, since the residence is owned by a developer for whom Faith has done building inspections in his role for the county.

Faith appears to have done the bare minimum required to qualify for the ballot. Doing the bare minimum isn't a trait we look for to represent the people of Franklin County. We believe that while Peck has had some missteps, he is committed to the work and is a solid leader.

District 2

Franklin County residents have two elected officials facing off in the county commissioner's race for District 2.

Commissioner Bob Koch and Pasco City Councilman Al Yenney are both longtime residents of the Mid-Columbia with the best of intentions in their quest to represent the county.

Koch is in his second term as a county commissioner, and Yenney was elected to the city council in 2008.

Koch is the only commissioner to remain out of the fray in the embezzlement scandal in Franklin County. And maybe that's part of the problem. Koch seems to remain on the outskirts of controversial issues and seems too easily swayed. He originally supported a deeper look at selling the TRAC facility, clearing the way for its use as a possible aquatics center. Residents pushed back.

We appreciate that he'll listen to his constituents but wonder if he shouldn't have done some outreach and homework beforehand. The possibility for an aquatics park at TRAC gained a lot of momentum before Koch changed his vote and the county withdrew its proposal.

In Yenney, Koch has an opponent with name recognition from his service as a councilmember. Yenney believes it's good for an incumbent to have a challenger because it forces the incumbent to reflect on his record and achievements. We hope Koch takes that to heart and steps up his game if he's elected to another term.

Yenney clearly does his homework and prides himself on being prepared to address agenda items at council meetings. He can tick off recognizable accomplishments like helping fix access for disable patrons of Chiawana Park, getting council meetings broadcast on live feeds and demanding the council say the Pledge of Allegiance at workshops.

The problem with these two candidates, who are both likable and have their hearts in the right place, is that neither one comes across as the kind of dynamic leader the county needs to help it move forward from the embezzlement scandal, controversies over TRAC and the doughnut hole annexation proposal and financial issues facing a growing region.

But Koch's strong ties to rural parts of the county are valuable on the commission. It would be a mistake to replace that insight with another urban dweller.

* The Tri-City Herald recommends Brad Peck and Bob Koch for the Franklin County Board of Commissioners.

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