Battle Ground Mayor Lisa Walters' announcement Monday that she planned to resign from city council came as a surprise to colleagues, who are now tasked with figuring out what happens next to fill positions.
Deputy Mayor Shane Bowman, the No. 2 person in the city's hierarchy, is poised to fill in for Walters in an official capacity. But it's still unclear how the transition of power will take place in the long term. He said councilmembers are conferring with city attorneys to determine what the next steps are.
"We want to make sure we do what's right," Bowman said. "It's up in the air right now."
Councilmembers, including, Bowman said they didn't see the resignation coming.
"I was caught off guard," said Councilman Mike Ciraulo, a former mayor of Battle Ground. "I did not expect it."
Walters' resignation comes with less than three months to go in her re-election campaign against Mike Dalesandro. The move all but ensures Dalesandro pivots into Walters' council seat following the Nov. 5 general election.
While Walters said last month that she had no intention of being mayor for a second term, she didn't indicate she planned to resign from the council. Battle Ground councilmembers pick the mayor -- largely a symbolic position -- and deputy mayor from within their ranks. Currently, councilmembers are discussing setting two-year term limits on the mayor and making the deputy mayor the automatic heir apparent to the position.
In a three-sentence email to councilors Monday night, Walters said she'd informed City Manager John Williams of her intention to step down by Sept. 1. She cited moving from the area as a reason for the decision.
In a phone interview Tuesday, Walters said she made the decision for personal reasons.
"It's gotten too difficult for me to take care of myself," Walters said.
Clark County Auditor Greg Kimsey said it was "pretty unusual" for an incumbent candidate to resign while still a candidate. But unplanned events, from time to time, crop up.
"Sometimes life gets in the way," he said.
When Walters was sworn in as mayor 19 months ago, she became the first woman to take the position. She advocated for improved teen suicide prevention and drug abuse prevention in a city that's suffered from high-profile instances of both.
But the last year has been a difficult one personally, with a pending divorce. She's been living off her $500-a-month city stipend and staying with friends since February, according to records filed in Clark County Superior Court last month.
Walters plans to move out of the state, she said, where she hopes to get a fresh start.
"It will be a new beginning for me," Walters said. "The thing about politics, is everyone knows your business. I want to go someplace where no one knows my name."