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Cascade Locks City Council puts off filling vacancy

Council can’t agree how to fill open seat

New Cascade Locks mayor Tom Cramblett takes the oath from Justice the Peace Cindy Mitchell.

New Cascade Locks mayor Tom Cramblett takes the oath from Justice the Peace Cindy Mitchell. Photo by Kirby Neumann-Rea.

Transition, and an accompanying stalemate, highlighted the Jan. 14 meeting of the Cascade Locks City Council.

Tom Cramblett presided over his first meeting as mayor, and it was the final meeting with interim city manager Paul Koch, who leaves the position this month. (He’ll assume the interim Cascade Locks Port manager job.)

New City Administrator Gordon Zimmerman was present — primarily as an observer — but he offered several pieces of advice.

Cramblett’s advancement to mayor opens a position on the council, and how to fill that post proved a sticking point for the six voting members, including Cramblett. He took the oath of office along with new councilors Glenda Groves and Bruce Fitzpatrick.

Staff had submitted a seven-option memorandum for how to proceed; the options included taking applications, putting it to a vote of the people, and offering the post to the candidate who had received the most votes among losing candidates in the November election. That would give former councilor Jeff Helfrich first crack at it, with Richard Randall runner-up.

A motion to appoint Helfrich, made by newly re-elected councilor Randy Holmstrom, reached a 3-3 stalemate. Councilors Mark Storm and Brad Lorang voted with Holmstrom, with Cramblett, Fitzpatrick and Groves opposing.

In turn, Groves moved to open the process up to applicants. The vote came to another 3-3 stalemate — the voting alignments unchanged.

“We all knew it may head this direction,” said Cramblett, who had openly called for defeat of Holmstrom’s motion.

“We’ll table this for now and have the staff get together and come up with something else on it,” Cramblett said. “For now, the vacancy doesn’t have a process for filling it.”

During the discussion of the “next in line” option, citizen Cody Steelman predicted such an appointee “would be recalled,” and former mayor George Fischer said, “What if I wanted to run? I couldn’t because you’d give preference.”

Citizen Arne Konenen urged the council to go the application route, saying it gives the panel the chance to find a person with “the best skill set” to match those of the current council members.

Citizen Cal Fick said, “There shouldn’t be a question. It ought to go to the next person (Helfrich or Randall) because that’s how the people voted.”

In other action, the five councilors and mayor were unanimous in taking up citizen Sandra Kelley’s request that it appoint three members of the citizen budget committee to also serve on the new council subcommittee on finance.

Kelley had told the council, “The citizens have the right to be involved in their government, particularly in a town that’s had so many ups and downs in terms of how they’ve handled their finances, and that’s this city for sure. The citizens are vested in what’s happening and why, and that includes what’s happened in the past.”

Groves asked, “Is there any reason we can’t have citizens involvement in the committee?”

Koch replied, “No reason at all; this is your committee and you can appoint whoever you would like.”

He added, “The issue is to get more people involved in knowing how the city operates and what it costs and what is it we do, so there is more knowledge and understanding.”

The city will accept applications for the citizen members of the finance subcommittee. Elected officials appointed to the committee are Groves, Fitzpatrick and Cramblett.

The council also appointed Fitzpatrick as council president.

Groves was the first one nominated, but she declined, saying, “I’m a newbie; I think it should be someone who has the experience.”

The next person nominated, Holmstrom, also declined, saying he lacked the time.

Fitzpatrick said he would make the same argument as Grove, “but I’ll do it if no one else will.”

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