Eileen Quiring O’Brien announced Wednesday she is stepping down as chair of the Clark County Council.
Quiring O’Brien said she will remain on the council as the District 5 representative until March 1. Councilor Karen Bowerman was elected by the board to take the role as chair until the end of Quiring O’Brien’s term in December 2022.
Although Quiring O’Brien did not cite specific reasons for her decision, she said it was a decision she has been considering for nearly two years. She said she and her husband will be moving out of state to spend time with their grandchildren.
“Because of a number of circumstances, this announcement comes earlier than I had planned,” Quiring O’Brien told the council. “It has been an honor and a privilege to serve the people who elected me to this position.”
A Republican, she was elected to a first four-year term on the council in 2016 and was elected countywide as council chair in 2018, before voters approved amendments to the county’s charter that expanded the number of council districts and eliminated the position of elected chair.
Quiring O’Brien served in the Oregon Legislature in the 1990s. More recently she worked as a real estate agent and served on the Clark County Planning Commission.
“I think you must have the Pacific Northwest deep in your soul,” Bowerman told Quiring O’Brien. “I know this decision must have come really hard for you. … One that must have taken a great deal of thought.”
Bowerman also thanked Quiring O’Brien for her “great service” to the county and for demonstrating “leadership without fear.”
According to Leslie Lopez from the Prosecuting Attorney’s Office, the county charter specifies how a chair or vice chair vacancy is filled.
“The remaining councilors will elect one of their own to serve until the next annual election of the council chair and council vice chair at the first council meeting of the following year,” Lopez said.
After Bowerman was tapped to be chair without objection, Quiring O’Brien, Bowerman and Councilor Gary Medvigy voted for Medvigy to fill the now-vacant vice chair seat. Councilors Temple Lentz and Julie Olson voted for Olson.
Replacing Quiring O’Brien following her departure on March 1 will be up to council. Under state statute, the council’s chair or executive officer will nominate three people to fill the open seat. The council will then select one person from those nominees. However, if a majority of the council cannot agree on the appointment within 60 days of the vacancy, the governor has 30 days to appoint one person from the list of nominees.
In other business, the council voted to continue holding meetings virtually for at least the next three weeks. Had the council chosen to resume in-person meetings, public attendance would be limited to around 30 people because of mask and social distancing requirements.
“I think it’s too soon to be opening it up” Medvigy said.
Medvigy also said it would be almost impossible to enforce those mandates at a public meeting.
“I don’t think anything has changed significantly since our last conversation. Certainly, no guidance has changed and we’re still seeing a lot of pressure with this omicron variant,” Olson said.
The council will revisit the topic ins three weeks unless different guidance from Public Health is issued sooner.