The Richland City Council announced Thursday that 10 people had applied to fill the position 7 seat on the council. The seat isn’t vacant yet because the current occupant, Mayor Michael Alvarez, hasn’t resigned.
“Mayor Alvarez has not resigned. His resignation will be effective immediately upon being sworn in as a County Commissioner,” according to City Manager Jon Amundson. The Richland City Charter prohibits councilmembers from holding any other office.
Alvarez will be sworn in by the Benton County Commission on Jan. 3, according to that office.
The council announcement said that it would interview up to six candidates on Jan. 6, just three days after Alvarez leaves the council. Since Alvarez will remain on the council for about two more weeks, the Observer reached out to ask him if he planned to participate in picking his replacement. He did not respond.
The Richland City Charter allows the council 60 days to fill a vacancy and then the mayor can fill the vacancy. The process for replacing the last two resignations did not begin until after the members resigned.
One of the 10 applicants is Alvarez’s neighbor, Ben Griggs.
The other nine are Andrew Rice, Carl Sarrazola, Clancy Waldron, Cortland Frauenkron, Eileen Griffin, Justin Raffa, Roni Gunnoe, Ryan Whitten and Todd Shepard.
In June, after Councilmember Phil Lemley resigned, the council picked Alvarez neighbor Shayne VanDyke.
Griggs, who was endorsed by the local Republican Party for the non-partisan position, ran unsuccessfully against Rick Janson’s for the Richland School Board in November 2021. Councilmember Theresa Richardson, a candidate for Richland City Council at the time, was listed as endorsing Griggs’ candidacy.
Alvarez currently collects $3,667 a month from the city of Richland in pay and medical benefits. The city’s 88 percent share of his health insurance is $1853 a month, plus he receives dental and vision insurance.
If Alvarez resigns in January, the city will pay for his insurance until the end of that month, according to Amundson. The Benton County Human Resources Department representative said insurance for new commission members would not begin until Feb. 1.
Resigning from the city and beginning work for the county at the same time, saves Alvarez several thousand dollars that he would otherwise have to pay to continue his coverage under COBRA. In his financial report to the Washington Public Disclosure Commission, Alvarez lists his income and his wife’s yearly income each at a minimum of $200,000.