Benton County has a lot on its plate, from growth to mental healthcare to the future of long-standing relationships with neighboring governments.
Commissioner Shon Small is running for his second term against Timothy Dalton, the long-time director of the Historic Downtown Kennewick Partnership.
Small, because of his career as a Benton County Sheriff’s deputy, has quite a bit of experience with county departments and its inner workings. But transitioning from an employee to an elected leader of the county is still quite an evolution, and the learning curve is steep.
One of Small’s responsibilities as commissioner is to serve on the board of Greater Columbia Behavioral Health, a time-consuming task given the state of mental health care in our region. In his time as commissioner, he also has served on the Prosser Economic Development Association, the Consolidated Juvenile Services Board and the Emergency Services Board, among others.
On his re-election website, Small says the three critical infrastructure needs in the county are water, roads and power.
Dalton doesn’t see those as Small’s priorities, however. Dalton said Small has ignored water issues and passed them off to follow Commissioner Jerome Delvin, a former state senator with a wealth of knowledge.
For Dalton’s part, it is clear he has done his homework on many important issues in Benton County and is well-versed on topics. The concern we have is his effectiveness. Sure, he has a challenge on his hands in downtown Kennewick. But change is slow, almost imperceptible at times.
His main priority is economic development, something he is familiar with in his role in downtown Kennewick’s redevelopment goals.
Dalton has big issues with the commissioners’ decision not to join most other governments in banning legitimate marijuana growing and sales operations. Small said commissioners made that decision to avoid potential lawsuits sure to come after Washington voters made marijuana a legal substance but many local governments decided not to.
Small most recently made news for saying that Benton County should look at the possibility of dissolving some of its longtime service partnerships with Franklin County. The issue came up regarding the joint human services department, but Small seemed to think a broader look was needed. He has since refocused the debate on human services for now. Dalton is for preserving partnerships. We have been fans of consolidation where it makes sense, so partnerships that are worthwhile should be perpetuated, if possible.
It’s hard to really determine the efforts of commissioners in Benton County, as the current trio tends to keep a much lower profile than their predecessors and counterparts. That may not be a bad thing, as long as the county is moving in the right direction and leaders are listening to the people that live there.
Small still has a lot to learn, but we do think he is the right man for the job.