For the first time in nearly four years, a Battle Ground council member other than Mike Ciraulo will soon run meetings and attend council functions as mayor.
Ciraulo decided to relinquish his mayoral role due to increasing demands as a division chief with Clark County Fire and Rescue, he said. Ciraulo’s decision means Battle Ground will need to replace its mayor and deputy mayor — current Deputy Mayor Phil Haberthur lost his council race this fall to Shane Bowman.
Veteran councilwoman Lisa Walters, who has 10 years experience, is the front-runner to replace Ciraulo, council members said. The deputy mayor appointment remains more uncertain, according to council members. The council will appoint members to the positions Jan. 3.
“There’s certainly an opportunity for new leadership,” said Ciraulo, who will remain on the council.
The mayor and deputy mayor positions in Battle Ground are ceremonial seats without much real power. City manager John Williams oversees the city’s day-to-day operations. The city council, of which the mayor and deputy are members, makes policy.
The council appoints both the mayor and deputy mayor from among the its seven members. The mayor runs council meetings and represents the city in an official capacity at functions. The deputy mayor runs the meetings when the mayor is absent.
While the mayor and deputy mayor perhaps have a higher profile among community residents, their positions do not afford them extra weight among the council.
The city needs a mayor who has a broad range of knowledge and experience on the council, current and former council members said. It is best the deputy mayor also have council experience, if possible, they added.
Battle Ground has four veteran council members — Ciraulo, Bill Ganley, Alex Reinhold and Lisa Walters. It also will have three new members — Shane Bowman, Adrian Cortes and Philip L. Johnson.
Ciraulo and Ganley have both held the mayor’s seat. That leaves Reinhold and Walters among the senior candidates.
Four council members, including Reinhold, plan to support Walters for mayor. Bowman and Johnson did not return a phone call for this story. Ciraulo’s term was scheduled to end in 2013.
“Lisa has expressed interest in the position and I fully support her in that endeavor,” Ciraulo said.
When asked about the mayoral appointment, Walters stopped short of saying she would seek the title.
“It’s something I told them I would consider,” Walters said, referring to council members. “The vote does not come down until January.”
The next mayor should seek to bring the council together and encourage everyone to become involved in boards and committees that benefit the city, she said.
“There have been some difficulties and some fractures,” Walters said, noting the council has managed to accomplish its work, but has not always been cordial behind the scenes. The council schism negatively impacted participation in events outside the council, she added.
Reinhold described Walters as honest, up-front and someone “who reminds everybody we’ve got to do this and keep our eye on the goal.” The reason why it is difficult for a council rookie to become mayor or deputy mayor, he explained, was “it takes six months to a year-and-a-half to get up to speed on the issues and what you can and cannot do.”
No deputy mayor favorite has emerged, council members said. None of the five current council members interviewed said they would seek the appointment. However, Cortes and Ganley said they would accept it, if appointed.