Kind words mark Russell's departure from Washougal City Council

Controversial figure praises staff, fellow councilors

By Ray Legendre, Columbian staff writer

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WASHOUGAL — As his final meeting with Washougal's City Council ended Monday night, Jon Russell's youngest supporters raced from the audience to jump in his arms.

Eve, 5, and Emma Russell, 3, sat with their father as his six-year tenure with the council closed. His wife, Sarah, stood behind him, as he accepted well wishes from his fellow council members.

"They've been around politics since they were born," Russell said of his daughters, while standing outside city hall. "Now, we're entering a new phase where dad's not doing public service for a while."

Russell is leaving Washougal on Thursday to take a national coordinator position with anti-abortion group Students for Life of America in Manassas, Va. He previously served as the organization's regional coordinator for the Pacific Northwest.

With Russell's departure goes the council's most strident conservative voice, and someone whose leadership and intellect will be difficult to replace, said Councilman Dave Shoemaker, who likened Russell to a mentor.

Russell attracted controversy at times for his efforts to steer the council toward his conservative ideology and for his desire to address national issues, such as immigration, at the local level.

However on Monday night, Russell, his fellow council members and Mayor Sean Guard exhibited mutual respect rather than animosity or disagreement.

Guard presented Russell with a plaque and a certificate thanking him for his six years of service.

Russell addressed Guard and each of his fellow council members one by one, highlighting characteristics he admired in each.

"You've had to navigate through some tough waters …" Russell told Guard. "You've been a good caretaker and helped the city do more with less."

Russell also praised the city's staff. "You have guided our city out of some unfortunate circumstances into a period of recovery," he said, noting afterward he wanted to leave the council "at peace."

Guard thanked Russell during the meeting for his "thoughtful comments."

Washougal's council will interview applicants for the vacant council seat, and likely select a new member at next Monday's meeting. As of Monday, four residents had submitted applications, Finance Director Jennifer Forsberg said Monday night. The deadline to apply is 5 p.m. Tuesday.

Washougal will release the candidates' names after 5 p.m. Tuesday. Vancouver Assistant City Attorney Brent Boger, who was in attendance Monday, has confirmed he is one of the applicants.

Russell noted he would continue watching the city's future development.

"I'll be rooting you on from outside," he said.

Before he left the chambers, Russell grabbed his plastic name card out of its holder.

"Now vacant," Russell said with a smile.

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