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Saturday, March 2, 2024
March 2, 2024

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Replacement of mayor still reverberates in Ridgefield

Jennifer Lindsay’s ouster, Ron Onslow’s return has many in city grumbling

By , Columbian staff writer

The dust-up over Ridgefield’s recent change in leadership has yet to settle down. Several residents came to the city council’s Thursday meeting to voice their displeasure at Jennifer Lindsay’s ouster as mayor.

Lindsay was unanimously selected by the council to serve as mayor in January 2022. At the council’s Jan. 11 meeting, the first of 2024, the council voted 4-3 to replace her with Councilor Ron Onslow. He served as mayor from 2008 to 2018.

The sudden shake-up in leadership angered and frustrated some residents. At least one resident who spoke at Thursday’s meeting would like to see Onslow step down.

“Your decision to not reappoint our mayor has lacked process and transparency,” Gail Alexander said. “Mayor Jennifer Lindsay has made us proud. Her grace and intellect, ability to connect, communicate and collaborate without ego or personal gain speaks to her outstanding leadership.”

Alexander said the council’s lack of transparency effectively “threw the mayor and citizens under the bus.”

At the Jan. 11 meeting, Councilors Clyde Burkle, Rob Aichele, Lee Wells and Onslow voted in support of ousting Lindsay. Councilors Matt Cole and Judy Chipman, and Lindsay, were opposed.

Wells, Chipman, Cole and Lindsay then voted in favor of Lindsay serving as mayor pro tem. Onslow, Aichele and Burkle favored Aichele for the pro tem position.

“I’m here because some of my city’s leaders have proven themselves incapable of representing the interests of our constituents without our direct supervision,” resident Cam Swingen told the council.

He said the council has turned local politics into a farce by “resurrecting the former mayor from the ashes without provocation, justification or transparency.”

“I, too, question the transparency,” said Ridgefield resident Kristin Blackman. “(Lindsay) had no feedback, no information from what I understand. I don’t see there was any communication there.”

Blackman said she felt blindsided by the council’s actions.

Some on the council also expressed concerns about the leadership change. Responding to public criticism at the council’s Jan. 25 meeting, Cole said he did find it odd that the council would break precedent and not reappoint the sitting mayor.

“I think that we’re at a critical time with a big school bond on the table, a lot of development, a lot of new partnerships being forged, a lot of activity,” Cole said. “And I think that continuity of leadership is important. I think it’s important that you elect somebody to represent your city in leadership who represents the people, who connects with those people. Those are all reasons why I advocated for the vote that I did.”

Chipman said she, too, was unhappy with the outcome.

“I went home in grief over the way that the council had treated our former mayor by not honoring the great work she had done here for two years, and I also have had many people contact me about this,” Chipman said at the Jan. 25 meeting.

Not everyone at the meeting disagreed with the council’s actions. Longtime resident Roy Garrison said everyone on the council has done a great job.

“I’ve heard comments here this evening that, to be honest with you, really tick me off,” Garrison said. “I’ve seen various school districts go through the turmoil that I’ve heard here this evening. It’s disheartening.”

Garrison said he hoped Onslow would “stand fast.”

Resident Ann Gard said she’s “blown away” by how well the city is run.

“We have a bond to pass. We don’t need to be dividing our city. … It’s a ridiculous thing for us to be doing as adults. It is not the time or the place,” Gard said.

Onslow and Lindsay could not be reached on Friday for comment.