By Geoff Folsom, May 5, 2013, Tri-City Herald
Former Kennewick Mayor Thomas Moak’s political days may not be over.
Moak has announced plans to file to run this year for the Port of Kennewick seat now held by Gene Wagner, the board’s longest serving member.
Moak, who served on the Kennewick City Council from 1998-2009, criticized Wagner and the commission for not working to close Vista Field Airport sooner.
Moak, 59, said he wanted to start work toward closing the airport as long as eight years ago.
“If the port had really done the analysis on Vista Field Airport and gotten a game plan, a lot of the cost to taxpayers might not have been so great,” he told the Herald.
Port commissioners voted 3-0 on April 17 to close the airport. The port will pay an estimated $11.9 million to close the facility and prepare it for redevelopment, including adding roads, according to a consultant’s report.
Wagner, 73, who has served on the port commission since 2002, said closing the airport was a long process that required holding many public meetings and making sure all points of view were heard.
“We have to have an open and above board process,” he said. “And when there are a lot of people who are adamant about the issue, it takes a little longer.”
Now that the airport is closing, Moak said a key issue in the race will be determining how to redevelop the 90-acre site. He would like to make sure it connects in well with the nearby Toyota Center and Three Rivers Convention Center.
“I want to create a center city for the Tri-Cities,” Moak said. “It is in the hub of the commercial area for the Tri-Cities. I’d like to see an outstanding development that brings in people and creates an opportunity that we haven’t seen in the Tri-Cities.”
Moak, who lost his bid for a fourth term on city council to John Hubbard in 2009, said he also plans to meet the challenge of redeveloping the Kennewick shoreline. Like with the airport area, he seeks a mixture of commercial and residential development, but he wants to make sure the airport and waterfront projects avoid taking away from each other.
“A waterfront is really what sets us apart,” he said. “People would die to have what we have in the Tri-Cities. You need residential facilities and commercial facilities and you need people. Because people are what’s going to drive any kind of activity.”
Wagner said he hasn’t decided whether he will run for the seat again, but acknowledges he’s thinking about it.
“I’m getting a lot of pressure to run again,” he said. “It’s that time of year when people are really starting to line up to file to run.”
Moak, who served as mayor for a year in 2009, is now chairman of the Kennewick Housing Authority. He has also served in the state House of Representatives and is a member of the board of the Badger Club, the Hanford Reach Interpretive Center and the Confluence Project.
Port commissioners serve three-year terms and earn $1,034 monthly, plus $104 for each meeting they attend. A 4 percent raise kicks in next year, raising commissioners’ stipend to $1,075 a month.
The District 2 seat that Moak is running for includes the “urban” portion of the port area, close to the Columbia River between Interstate 182 to the west and the cable bridge to the east.
The candidate filing period is May 13-17, with the primary election on Aug. 6.