Leo Bowman's retirement a loss for Benton County

January often brings the end of longtime political careers.

In the Mid-Columbia, the most notable retiree this year is Leo Bowman, who served 16 years as a Benton County commissioner.

Bowman decided not to run for re-election and presumably take a well-earned rest. With his successor sworn in last week, Bowman's retirement has officially begun.

It's gratifying to see folks like the 73-year-old Bowman go out on a high note. No doubt, he would have easily won re-election.

Bowman has been a leader for the county and our region, so we're especially happy to see him leave office on his own terms.

That's not to say he won't be missed. Among other accomplishments, he has been a dogged advocate for transportation projects and infrastructure improvements designed for the region's economic benefit.

Bowman always had an ear for his constituents and would return a phone call or email on a topic, no matter how trivial it may have seemed. The people, and the community, were always his top priority.

When a leader like Bowman opts to retire, we often worry about how the successor to the job will perform. But not in this case. A side-benefit of Bowman's retirement was to open the door for long-time state Sen. Jerome Delvin, who wanted to spend his time and efforts closer to his Richland home.

And we expect Delvin to get right to work. He shouldn't suffer from as much of a learning curve as other new commissioners because of his experience with government budgets and the sometimes complicated world of politics.

Delvin brings a wealth of connections and knowledge to the job. But one person can't replace the other, and we expect him to create his own path, not step into Bowman's shoes and follow in his footsteps.

While we might not have always agreed with Bowman, his intentions always had merit. Gov. Gregoire acknowledged as much last month, declaring Dec. 12 Leo Bowman Day. In part, the proclamation read: "Commissioner Bowman is a role model for all -- the true embodiment of selfless leadership and relentless perseverance, and Washington state's transportation system is the beneficiary of his efforts."

Bowman says he has learned a lot over the years, and a slew of public officials had glowing words for his work on transportation.

Bowman took the decisions he made as a commissioner seriously, knowing that someone would likely be unhappy with the outcome.

"When decisions typically come to the board of commissioners, somebody's not going to like the decision. And so you need to know and understand why you're making a decision," he said. "It has to be in the best interests of the citizens as a whole."

Bowman, a dedicated Kiwanis member, will now have more time to spend with his wife and extended family, which now includes great-grandchildren. Bowman also will "make a lot more sawdust," he said, as one of his favorite hobbies is woodworking.

We wish Bowman all the best in his retirement, though knowing him, we expect an issue will draw his interest and energies in the years ahead.

Thank you, Leo, for your service.