Yacolt mayor candidates vow to bring stability, accountability

Community’s leadership plagued by turnover, scandal

By Paris Achen, Columbian courts reporter


Updated: October 19, 2011, 10:11 AM

photoAlbert "Skip" Benge

Yacolt mayoral candidates

Albert ‘Skip’ Benge

Age: 70

Background: Retired Columbia Helicopters ­supervisor; Yacolt

City ­Council Position 2;

U.S. Marine Corps.

Money raised: None.

Major endorsements: None.

Website/social media: None.

Jeffrey S. Carothers

Age: 52

Background: Meeder Equipment Co. salesman; U.S. Marine Corps.

Money raised: None.

Major endorsements: None.

Website/social media: None.

After nine months of scandal and instability in Yacolt’s leadership, the town’s duo of mayoral candidates say they aim to bring accountability and harmony to Clark County’s smallest incorporated community.

Yacolt City Council appointee Albert “Skip” Benge and Jeffrey Carothers, who has sought appointment to the council three times in the past year due to council turnover, are vying Nov. 8 for a four-year term as mayor. Interim Mayor James Weldon was eliminated from the race in the August primary election.

Weldon was appointed to replace Mayor Joe Warren, who resigned in March after a state audit revealed his office had violated state laws by purchasing materials from a town employee without competitive bidding. Warren ascribed his resignation to unspecified health problems.

Benge, 70, a retired Columbia Helicopters supervisor, said he decided to run for the mayor’s seat to try to bring more accountability to an office that has been under scrutiny for violating state laws and poor management. He said he wants to “end favoritism” in town government and “maintain clean audits.” Another of his top goals is to reduce or eliminate city fees and taxes.

Before approving new construction in the town, he said, town government needs to find ways to fill the town’s glut of vacant houses.

Benge has been a coach, volunteer and sponsor in Little League and high school baseball.

Carothers, 52, a Meeder Equipment Co. salesman, said the mayor, council and city staff consistently questioned the propriety of each other’s actions. “One of the issues is to get the mayor, the council and staff to work as a team and harmoniously,” he said. “The town’s business is getting done, but it could be done more effectively.”

He said he also would like to “put citizens first” and involve youth in the town’s civic and decision-making processes.

Carothers has volunteered in civic activities including the city’s 10K Big Foot Run and town cleanup July 4 as a part of the Yacolt Rendezvous. He’s also a member of Veterans of Foreign Wars and the American Legion.

The position includes city management duties for the town of 1,566 people usually performed by a city manager, which Yacolt doesn’t have. It pays $500 a month.

In the August primary, Carothers garnered 35 more votes than Benge, according to official election results.

Paris Achen: 360-735-4551; http://www.twitter.com/Col_Trends; http://www.facebook.com/ColTrends; paris.achen@columbian.com