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Benton County Commissioner District #1

The board of county commissioners is the legislative authority for the county in the 33 noncharter counties. The commissioners serve as the chief administrators for most county operations.

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  • Candidate picture

    Jerome Delvin
    (Rep)

  • Candidate picture

    Justin Raffa
    (Dem)

Biographical Information

How would you approach improving cooperation between Benton and Franklin Counties?

How important is the wine industry to the economic health of Benton County?

What role, if any, should the county play in protecting and promoting it?

How should the County, including the Sheriff's department, reflect the increasing diversity of its population in its hiring?

Should neighborhoods located in parts of Benton County that are surrounded by or next to the cities of Kennewick, Richland, or West Richland be annexed into those cities? Why or why not?

What strategies should the County use to improve its financial condition?

What would you recommend the County do to preserve open spaces?

Party Preference Republican
Experience (Max 500 characters) Political Experience: Benton County Commissioner, 2013- present Senator, Washington State Senate, 2004-2013 Deputy Republican Whip, Washington State Senate, Representative, Washington State House of Representatives, 1994-2004 Assistant Republican Floor Leader, Washington State House of Representatives, 1999-2000 Assistant Majority Leader, Washington State House of Representatives, 1997-1999 Professional Experience: Police Officer, Richland WA, 1978-2006 U.S. Army 1974-1977
Campaign Email LCHILDERS2B@CHARTER.NET
Town where you live Richland, WA
Contrary to reported relationships between the two counties, cooperation has not been at a higher level of cooperation. COVID-19 has certainly strengthen the cooperation because of resources needed to deal with it. Each county management’s personnel work very well behind the scenes and each day I encourage the cooperation.
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Our local wine industry is a major economic driver because of the added value it brings to the markets and economy. I have a long and strong history of promoting Washington wines in general but especially our local wineries and wine. While serving in the state legislature I partnered with the state wine commission to bring wine buyers from around the world to taste and buy our wines. I also led local wineries to other counties to promote their wine. I still continue to do so on my own time because it’s important to find new markets.
The county’s human resource group work with different elected officials to promote diversity in the work force and is a priority of the board. We increasily work to meet goals and the requirements placed on public agencies to fulfill diversity win our workforce.
I believe the best approach is to let the residences of the neighborhood decide if they want to be annexed not the cities. There are pros and cons for each neighborhood. The county promotes a healthy environment and lifestyle in our communities.
Benton County through board action in the past years have created a balanced and sustainable budget for now and into the future. We have tried vey hard to meet the needs of a growing county and while planning for future needs. Benton County has maintain a strong budget even through the past recessions and continues to be so through the current COVID-19 situation. Benton county has spent over $20 million dollars in cash these past years for maintaining the county’s infrastructure and building to meet current and future growth. Again done without raising taxes or bonding but having a strong capital budget.
Benton county has been and will continue to work with groups, such as the the Bader Mountain Club, to expand open space and trails systems for public use. Also by using our planing process to address the needs of the communities for recreation and development. It’s important for a balanced approach in the growth of Benton County.
Party Preference Democratic
Experience (Max 500 characters) City of Richland Arts Commission 2014-17, elected Chair, 2015-17; Washington State Arts Commission, 2016-present, elected First Vice Chair, 2019-present; Graduate, Leadership Tri-Cities Class XIX and Rotary Leadership Institute; Former board service: Columbia Basin Badger Club, Richland Rotary Club, Arts Center Task Force; Current board service: Leadership Tri-Cities, Visit Tri-Cities, Northwest Region of the American Choral Directors Association; Bachelor's and Master's degrees in Music
Campaign Email info@justinraffa.com
Town where you live Richland
Twitter @ElectRaffa
The need to improve our relationship with Franklin County is vital, especially considering the number of bi-county agencies at risk like the courts and health district. These shared programs help lower their fiscal impact and ultimately save tax payer dollars. I know the current Commissioners and am ready to partner with them and make decisions in the best interest of our community across both counties.

Networking is key in my industry and a large part of my role as a director. I plan to leverage my networking experience to keep Benton County's commitment to supporting shared agencies by fostering collaborative relationships of mutual trust and respect between the counties. This starts with the working relationships between Commissioners and staff.

I am a voice that is committed to fostering civility in our political discourse as Chair of the Tri-City Civility Caucus. We need to focus on the issues and work to find common ground, not tear down individuals with different views.
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Benton County assigns one Commissioner to attend board meetings of our area's destination marketing organization, Visit Tri-Cities. I have served on this board as an arts and culture industry representative since 2015. Unfortunately, the Benton County Commissioner assigned to the board has never attended a meeting in the five years that I've been a member. I worry that the county is disconnected from this agency's efforts to help promote our region's economic health.

Visit Tri-Cities has an excellent relationship with area wineries and oversees a group called the Tri-Cities Wine Tourism Council. I would work to amplify the county's relationship with Visit Tri-Cities to see what opportunities exist to further its mission of attracting tourists to our region, many of whom spend money at our wineries and directly support our local economy. I would be pleased to serve as the county's representative to the Visit Tri-Cities board and would commit to attending its monthly meetings.
Long standing systematic oppression in the United States has led to the injustice of racial prejudices and the deaths of countless persons of color, often at the hands of local law enforcement. I would be in favor of inviting community representatives to serve on hiring panels whose members reflect the diversity of our county. I would also initiate a review of the existing rules and regulations of the county's Civil Service Commission since their last revision in 2016.

All institutions have implicit biases that do not necessarily match up with their articulated beliefs. By actively engaging communities of color in conversations and investing the time necessary to develop meaningful relationships with diverse community leaders, Benton County can begin to help champion issues of equity and inclusion in local government. Amidst rising friction, we need a renewed commitment to collaboration between the Sheriff's department and the residents of Benton County.
Considering Benton County's historically rural character, annexation should largely be decided by residents in these neighborhoods and considered on a case by case basis. Each case should take into account the wishes of the residents who moved to the unincorporated areas in pursuit of a more rural lifestyle. People who choose to live there do so with the knowledge that they are outside of city boundaries, as this affects assessed taxes and the ability to keep larger animals/livestock which many cities limit. However, this should be balanced against the efficiencies of municipal services and is especially important for calls to our first responders for help. I would favor the requests of residents unless there was compelling evidence to the contrary, or until residents want to sell their land or develop it. If the neighborhood in question is an "island" within the Urban Growth Area, it should be annexed since counties lack the legal authority and taxing power to manage city-like areas.
Benton County remains in a strong financial position with a healthy bond rating and good reserves. Nevertheless, looming state deficits and decreased sales tax revenues due to COVID-19 will make for a more challenging budgeting process this year. I work in a creative, entrepreneurial spirited industry where I know how to manage shoestring budgets and am not afraid to make difficult decisions about funding allocations. I will work closely with other elected officials from our cities and port districts to make sure they are working in tandem, especially considering investments in planned development. I would also include the courts in the budgeting process since they oversee much of the county budget that is passed by the Commissioners. Additionally, I would be open to Commissioners taking a pay cut from their $112,000/year salary to model the way as elected leaders doing their part to share the burden during tough times by setting up an independent board to review Commissioner salaries.
I am concerned that affordable housing is disappearing across our bi-county area and that the housing market is getting tight. I am opposed to the concept of sprawl as a solution which has been prevalent in our communities. We need to focus on maximizing value in the existing Urban Growth Area, including looking at repurposing underused/unused lots and exploring more low impact development. Ridge lines should be protected, especially as wild fires become more of a threat in our area and put a strain on first responders in reaching those who live outside of city limits. I certainly want to preserve open spaces for outdoor recreation and parks, knowing that they positively impact our quality of life and wildlife while helping to attract new business and residents to our area. I would be pleased to partner with groups such as the Friends of Badger Mountain and Tapteal Greenway on outlining a balanced approach that includes a mix of residential, commercial, and open spaces.