For Mike Dalesandro, serving as the mayor of Battle Ground has been about getting out and meeting people.
He once visited an elementary school class, and a student invited Dalesandro to his birthday party. The mayor attended.
“It’s a position where you’re the spokesperson, cheerleader and policy facilitator for the city,” Dalesandro said.
Dalesandro, 39, has been reflective on his time as mayor because his first two-year term in the position is coming to an end. It’s also looking like it will be his only term as mayor, at least for now.
On Tuesday, Dalesandro said he will step aside to let someone else take over. He will remain on the city council, as his current term runs through 2021. In Battle Ground, councilors vote to select the mayor for two-year terms. A councilor can’t serve more than four years in a row. Councilors selected Dalesandro as mayor at the start of 2018. They will select a new mayor at their first meeting in 2020.
“For the last few months, I’ve been thinking about where we were as a city and what I want from my personal life,” Dalesandro said. “This takes a lot of time and energy. It was a fun and educational experience. I got to learn a lot and meet a lot of people. I felt like two years was a good time to rotate leadership.”
The previous two Battle Ground mayors — Philip Johnson and Shane Bowman — also served two years each. Both are still on council. Dalesandro said he was able to lean on them for advice in his time as mayor, and he expects to do the same for his successor.
One thing Dalesandro looks back on fondly from his time as mayor was his work continuing to strengthen local partnerships, whether with Battle Ground Public schools, local sports leagues or the city’s faith communities.
“You want to be out there and engaged with your constituents,” he said. “You want to make them feel like they have a seat at the table, which they do.”
He also praised the council’s efforts to celebrate residents more and diversifying committee appointments.
“If you want good decision-making, you have to bring diverse opinions to the table,” he said.
Dalesandro also didn’t rule out seeking higher office at some point. In 2015, he lost the race for Clark County Chair to Marc Boldt, who finished with 39.27 percent of the votes compared to Dalesandro’s 36.48 percent.
In more recent months, Dalesandro has come under fire online. In March, Patriot Prayer founder Joey Gibson started bringing supporters to the city for weekly rallies to protest Initiative 1639, a gun control initiative approved by voters last year. Gibson and supporters also appeared at local council meetings urging councilors to pass ordinances declaring themselves sanctuary cities from the initiative. Gibson and Dalesandro first traded some public barbs after Gibson appeared at a Battle Ground council meeting, and things got somewhat heated.
Earlier this month, Gibson filed a tort claim against Dalesandro, arguing that his speech is being restricted online because Gibson had been blocked from commenting on announcements made by Dalesandro. The claim, filed with the city of Battle Ground, is typically an indication of an intent to sue. Gibson is seeking $100,000 in damages. Dalesandro said nothing has been filed as of Tuesday.
During these last few months, Dalesandro has been a target online of Gibson and his supporters, who have painted the mayor as a socialist looking to bring a liberal utopia to Battle Ground. The socialism claims stem partly from a picture Dalesandro posted online after meeting Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez at the State of the Union.
Dalesandro said some of the messages have made him laugh, although his wife and older child don’t always think they’re so amusing. The mayor has issued a few statements online decrying outsiders coming into Battle Ground.
He said Tuesday the online chatter did not play into his decision to not seek another term as mayor.
“I feel like I wouldn’t change a thing,” Dalesandro said. “I stand behind the statements I made. I don’t like seeing the animosity. It can be difficult to go through, especially for family. The hard part about being in a position like this and getting so much attention is that very few people actually know you. They think they know you, or assume things about you. I tried to lead by example, because I didn’t think saying much would change their minds.”
Dalesandro said another reason for stepping away is because he doesn’t want to see the focus on one person instead of the council. He didn’t think it had gotten to that point yet, and wants to make sure one person doesn’t become bigger than the council as a whole.
“I think in Battle Ground, we like the mayor to do their service and move on,” Dalesandro said. “The hope is that you didn’t screw it up too much for the next person.”