Veteran Camas councilman named mayor

Higgins replaces Paul Dennis, who resigned office for new opportunity

By Ray Legendre, Columbian staff writer

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CAMAS — The Camas City Council unanimously appointed Mayor Pro Tem Scott Higgins as the city’s new mayor during a special meeting Monday night.

Prior to Monday night, Higgins served as Camas’ acting mayor following former mayor Paul Dennis’ June 1 resignation to head the Camas-Washougal Economic Development Association.

Higgins, 39, and Kim Seaton Thies, a 66-year-old retired bookkeeper with no elected office experience, were the only applicants for mayor of Clark County’s second-largest city with about 19,350 residents.

The Camas City Council named Higgins as the new full-time mayor after listening to both candidates answer a series of job-related questions and then discussing their qualifications in executive session. The appointment lasts until Dec. 31.

“I’m honored and I’m excited,” Higgins said after being sworn in. “I believe I’m the right man for the job and I’m looking forward to hitting the ground running.”

Preparing for election

Higgins will seek a four-year term during this November’s election when he runs against engineer Ken Kakuk, who filed earlier this spring.

Higgins resigned his council seat after his appointment as mayor became official. The city will begin seeking his replacement immediately, officials said.

Higgins’ combination of collaborative skills and experience made him an attractive choice Monday night, Councilman Don Chaney said. Chaney added council members took pains to remain neutral during the selection process despite their previous working relationship with Higgins, who was first elected to the city council in 2002.

“Scott brings long-standing experience as a council member and a citizen of Camas,” Chaney said.

The decision came down to two issues for Chaney: Who would best serve as the face of Camas to residents, neighboring communities and businesses, and who would best serve as an employer.

Council members asked candidates five standard questions: how they would describe their leadership styles; what they perceived the city’s three biggest challenges over the next five years; what changes they would make in their first 100 days; what regional issues had they taken particular interest in; and why they should be mayor in 60 seconds or less.

Higgins appeared composed as he answered the council’s questions. He noted he “already had to make tough calls that were mentally grueling and emotionally draining” while serving as acting mayor. After the meeting, he said the tough calls related to a personnel issue.

Higgins told the council he envisioned using his first 100 days to bolster city and business partnerships his predecessor, Dennis, had previously helped forge.

“I believe the ship is on the right course and is well-run and well-administered,” Higgins said. “I want to add my vision to what’s already happening.”

Thies appeared stumped when asked the same question about changes she anticipated in her first 100 days.

“I don’t have anything off the top of my head … because I don’t know how things are done here,” she told the council. “I don’t know what you have in place.”

Thies also conceded to council members the budgets she had managed were minute when compared to a budget a city the size of Camas would have. Her experience managing employees was also minimal, according to her job application.

Thies refused to think of herself as a long shot prior to Monday’s meeting.

“I’m a praying person and I put it to the Lord,” she said after the meeting adjourned. “And I asked Him to allow the council to (select) the best person for the job.”

Thies was unsure whether she would run for Higgins’ vacant seat or whether she was eligible to do so. Regardless, she said she planned to become involved in the community.

Ray Legendre: 360-735-4517, http://www.twitter.com/col_smallcities, http://www.facebook.com/raylegend or ray.legendre@columbian.com.