Washougal residents voted to change the city’s form of government, as of Tuesday night’s election results.
Proposition 8 asked residents if they wanted to change the city from a mayor-council setup to a council-manager arrangement. The vote required a simple majority of 50 percent plus one vote to make the change. As of Tuesday’s results, 54.84 percent, or 2,532 votes, were in favor while 45.16 percent, or 2,085 votes, were against.
In the mayor-council form, the mayor is elected at-large and serves as Washougal’s chief administrative officer. There’s a seven-member city council that is elected to serve as the legislative body of the city. The council formulates and adopts city policies and the budget, and the mayor is responsible for carrying them out. The mayor presides over council meetings but doesn’t vote.
The council-manager form shares power among a seven-member council, all elected by residents. The council is responsible for making policy and adopting the budget, and would appoint a city manager to handle daily operations of city government, personnel functions and preparation of the budget for submission to the council for its review and approval. The city manager is directly accountable to and can be removed by a majority vote of the council at any time.
Current Mayor Molly Coston, who was elected in November 2017 and took office in January, would become the eighth city councilor and serve on the council until her current term is up at the end of 2021, should results hold. Coston could also decide to resign her seat, in which the eighth council seat would be eliminated. Coston couldn’t be reached Tuesday night.
With a council-manager form of government, city councilors pick the mayor, and would do so in Washougal at their first December meeting.
Mayor Pro Tem Paul Greenlee would preside over that meeting until a new mayor is appointed, according to David Scott, Washougal city administrator.
There was a second part of the resolution residents voted on Tuesday night, a declaration of intent that council will put another measure on the ballot in the future asking residents if they want the power to directly elect their mayor again. The resolution would transform Position No. 1 into a mayoral seat, although it would not be an executive position.
“It doesn’t add a position back,” Scott said. “That person would preside as council-appointed mayor and there would be six councilors. Voters would select a mayor on a four-year cycle.”
Council-appointed mayors would serve in two-year cycles.
Should the results hold, the change will kick in immediately once results are certified. In the meantime, Scott said he and the city attorney will review what needs to be done to make the change go smoothly. That could include city councilors picking an interim city manager who only takes the position if the results end up certified.
“We’d want an executive to be in place immediately,” Scott said. “We wouldn’t want even a moment gap. If this holds up, the plan would be for the council to appoint an interim manager on Nov. 19.”