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News / Clark County News

In 5-0 vote, Camas council makes Turk mayor

A councilor herself since 2011, she will finish Higgins’ term

By Adam Littman, Columbian Staff Writer
Published: November 14, 2018, 9:00pm

CAMAS — Shannon Turk will be the next mayor of Camas.

City councilors voted unanimously 5-0 at a special meeting Wednesday night to appoint the current city councilor to the position of mayor, which was vacated in September when Scott Higgins stepped down.

Turk was appointed to the city council in 2011 and has lived in the city since 2002. She works as a management analyst for the city of Vancouver and previously worked as a budget analyst for Multnomah County, Ore., and the city of Gresham, Ore. Turk told the council Wednesday night that her background in finance was one of her biggest strengths, along with her optimism. She plans on working with other councilors and the community in her time as mayor.

“I am a collaborative leader,” she said. “I don’t believe I have the only opinion.”

Turk beat out fellow Councilor Melissa Smith, former mayor Dean Dossett and Geoerl Niles, lead pastor at Calling Church in Vancouver, to become the city’s next mayor. Turk and Smith didn’t participate in questioning of the other candidates or the decision on who to pick for the seat. Turk will be sworn into office at Monday’s city council meeting, and will serve as mayor until Dec. 2, 2019, the remainder of Higgins’ term.

Higgins announced in June he was stepping down after seven years as mayor to spend more time with his family. During her interview Wednesday, Turk said following Higgins will be a challenge, as he’s well known throughout the community as the city’s biggest cheerleader. Turk said that while she was not born and raised in Camas, like Higgins, she thinks she can bring her experiences from other cities with her to Camas.

Councilor Deanna Rusch asked Turk about the challenges with scheduling between her job and the mayoral position, which is considered a part-time commitment. For most of his tenure, Higgins didn’t have another job, so he treated the mayor’s seat like a full-time gig, he said in September. Turk said her job is flexible, and while she might not be around as much as Higgins, she was already getting to many of the same events he did.

She also said she could use that to the city’s benefit by empowering city staff and councilors to make more decisions and be more active.

“That would be a positive change,” she said.

Turk said the biggest challenges facing the city are paying for services — as she says public safety services are falling behind — growth north of Lacamas Lake and paying for infrastructure.

The council also asked Turk about the city’s form of government. Camas operates as what is called a “strong mayor” format, or a mayor-council setup. City councilors discussed the possibility of switching to a council-manager arrangement earlier this year, but tabled the discussion. Washougal residents voted earlier this month to make the change from mayor-council to council-manager.

Turk said she has worked for both forms, as she’s a councilor in Camas with a mayor-council form and works in Vancouver, which has a council-manager style. She said she’s comfortable with both, and if the city council wants to talk about it next year and put it up for vote, they have to do a better job communicating with the public on what the switch could potentially mean.

She also said in recent weeks she would like to get more community feedback, and has thrown out the idea of bringing back ward meetings, where councilors meet with residents in their respective wards.

Adam Littman: 360-735-4518; adam.littman@columbian.com; twitter.com/a_littman

Columbian Staff Writer