Son chosen over father for County board post


News staff writer

April 19, 2006

Bob Benton, 25, beat out his father, Steve, on Monday for a temporary seat on the Hood River County Commission.

“I hope he still has a job tomorrow,” said Interim Chair Chuck Thomsen following a unanimous vote for Benton’s appointment.

Steve had endorsed his son as a good “decision-maker” during his own 30-minute interview.

“I not only can’t beat him in basketball anymore, I can’t even win an argument with him,” he said.

Both orchardists applied to serve in the District 3 position until the end of the year. Thomsen, the elected representative of that district, has taken the lead role on the county board. He was chosen for those responsibilities by his peers after Rodger Schock stepped down abruptly in March.

District 2 Commissioner Maui Meyer is competing with Hood River resident Paul Nevin for the at-large position. Also joining the race as a write-in candidate in the May 16 primary election is Parkdale’s Ron Rivers.

District 4 Commissioner Les Perkins made the motion on April 17 to bring the younger Benton on board. It was immediately seconded by District 1 Commissioner Carol York and signed off by Meyer and Thomsen.

With that vote, Steve not only bested his father but three other applicants. Submitting their names for consideration were: Anne Saxby, district manager of the Hood River Soil and Water Conservation District; Jeanne Farwig, owner of Gorge Winds Properties; and, Richard Reed, an orchardist, stockbroker and winery owner.

“I thought they were all great applicants,” said Perkins. “I just thought Bob had a clean slate coming in as far as an agenda and a lot of positive energy.”

The four members of the board were impressed with Benton’s desire to serve because he was born and raised in Hood River County and planned to remain there for life.

“So, I’ve got an inherent need to make sure that it’s a good place to live,” said Benton.

During his interview, Benton told commissioners that he wanted to be involved in his local government and might consider running for an elected office someday.

“He indicated an interest in politics so I think this could be a great opportunity,” said York.

Benton, who resides on Orchard Road, holds a degree in business management from the University of Arizona. He is also a member of the budget committee for both Hood River County and Farmers Irrigation District.

He believes that his age is an asset to the county commission. Not only did he have a broad base of friends, but Benton felt he could help engage younger citizens in the political process.

He also claimed to be nonpartisan and able to listen to both sides of an issue without prejudice.

During his seven months of public service, Benton would like to resolve a health concern created by failing septic systems at Windmaster Corner. He is also fully behind the county getting into the business of renewable energy, expanding the industrial lands base and creating more affordable housing opportunities.

He declined to take a stand on the proposed tribal gambling casino in Cascade Locks until he became fully informed about the issues related to that project.

Bob Benton said Measure 37 had its flaws but would, ultimately, force the Legislature to restore fairness to its policies for regulating private property.

He will be sworn into office prior to the regular commission meeting at 7 p.m. on May 1.

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