PROSSER — The leadership of West Benton Fire and Rescue, (WBFR) had a difficult decision to make, but make it they did. Following the unexpected July 10, 2019, passing of the former long-time Benton County Commissioner and first time WBFR Fire Commissioner, Max Benitz, Jr., of Prosser at the age of 72, the board appointed a replacement commissioner to fill the vacancy left by the iconic, long-serving Prosser 'hometown boy.'
Roy “Dewey” Holliday of Prosser, with family firefighting family roots deep in Klickitat County, Wash., was appointed to serve out the balance of Benitz’ first six-year term.
At the time of his death, Benitz Jr., was running unopposed for a second term, but it was beyond deadline to have his name removed from the General Election Nov. 5 ballot following his untimely July 10, death.
In his final race, Benitz, received 1,410 votes, with 67 write-ins.
The chance to vote for ‘Maxie,’ as he was known to friends in Prosser, on Nov. 5, was a form of closure.
Prosser resident of four decades, Bryce Conklin, a retired Pasco School District electrician, said he respected Benitz’ work and wanted to do so one final time on Nov. 5, ballot.
“I voted for him because I remember he was a good county commissioner and I voted for him when he ran for the fire district board the first time,” said Conklin. Another 1,409 voters may have felt something similar, also casting their votes for the late Commissioner.
According to WBFR Chief Seth Johnson, State regulations guide the replacement process of an elected official in situations when death occurs mid-term. “The first option is to have the remaining Board members fill the vacancy with an appointee. Our Board did just that when Commissioner Benitz passed. Commissioner Roy Holliday was appointed to fill the remainder of the term.” Johnson explained. “If the board so choses,” Johnson continued, “they will have to reappoint him.”
Holliday’s father was a long-tenured Fire Chief of Dallesport, Wash., according to his application letter to be considered for the vacancy. Holliday also wrote he had nearly a decade of involvement as a paramedic and Shift Lieutenant for the Santa Fe county fire department.
“Firefighting is in the family,” said Holliday in a telephone interview last week. “I was pleased to receive the West Benton appointment.”