The opportunity to serve as mayor will be open to all eligible residents of the City of Hood River.
City Council decided Monday to start a process in which citizens can apply to fill the vacancy that will happen when Mayor Paul Blackburn resigns in September.
“The best way to get the largest field possible is to open it up,” Council Member Megan Saunders said during a discussion, in which the council also considered, briefly, two other options presented by City Manager Rachael Fuller: Appoint Council President Kate McBride as Mayor Pro Tem and fill that council position, or appoint a pro tem from council and appoint a new councilor. (Pro Tem appointees serve temporarily; the mayoral position will be up for a vote again in November 2020.)
Once applications are accepted, interviews are likely to happen in September. Technically, the position can’t be advertised until the vacancy exists. Council has not yet decided the exact timeline, including how soon to accept applications. That decision, and a list of interview questions, will be discussed at a later meeting.
Blackburn, who was elected in November for his third two-year term, announced in late May that he would be moving out of state with his wife, Dr. Kristen Dillon, who has accepted a new position in medical policy guidance.
Blackburn has not yet given a specific date for when he will resign; he will remain in Hood River for family reasons through Sept. 15, and said he could remain in office and preside over the first meeting in September: Sept. 9.
The interviews and appointment of a new mayor would take no longer than two meetings, McBride stated.
“I think a slow, deliberative process is good but I also don’t want to have to be without a mayor for too long,” said Council Member Erick Haynie.
The council voted unanimously for the open process, though Council Member Tim Counihan said, “I’m comfortable with appointing Kate (McBride). I have every confidence she’d be able to fill that role.”
Counihan asked the rest of the council what would happen if more than one member of the council applied and were subject to interviews and a vote.
“I can answer that; it would be just like middle school. You can vote for yourself,” Blackburn said.
The council has yet to decide between paper balloting and an oral vote. With both, who votes for whom is part of the public record.
In terms of the charter, “mayor” is considered a member of council, so the same process applies.
The application process will follow the same one that has been used in recent vacancies, in which Counihan, Saunders (both in 2015) and Blackburn (in 2004) were all appointed to fill vacant council positions. Counihan was elected outright in 2018, and served in 2015-16 as an appointee. Saunders was elected in 2016.