Dalesandro running for Clark County Charter Review commission

The Battle Ground councilor and former mayor says his experience would be a good fit on the 15-member review commission

BATTLE GROUND — Former Battle Ground mayor and current city council member, Mike Dalesandro, is throwing his hat in the ring to become one of 15 people elected to the Clark County Charter Review Commission.

“I want to protect the intent of the charter,” Dalesandro told Clark County Today ahead of the announcement. “And I think the intent of the charter is to have this balance, if you will. The separation of powers, I think, is critical in local government.”

Battle Ground Councilor Mike Dalesandro is shown here at a ceremony in January marking the end of his time as the city’s mayor. Photo by Chris Brown
Battle Ground Councilor Mike Dalesandro is shown here at a ceremony in January marking the end of his time as the city’s mayor. Photo by Chris Brown

The Clark County Home Rule Charter, adopted by voters in 2014, contains a provision that, 5 years after its adoption, it is to be reviewed by a charter review commission consisting of 15 persons elected on a nonpartisan basis.

Those 15 people will be divided up into three from each of the four county districts, as well as three at-large seats. Dalesandro said he plans to run for a county-wide seat, rather than a specific district.

The filing period to run for the Charter Review Commission opens May 11, and runs through May 15, barring any kind of delay related to the current COVID-19 outbreak.

So far, Dalesandro says he knows of a few other people who intend to file and run for the commission, though likely not the same number who ran to help craft the charter in the first place.

“If you remember back in 2014, there were, like, 100-some people that ran for Freeholder,” Dalesandro recalls. “It was insanity on the ballot.”

The charter created separation between the legislative and executive branches of county government, moved the county from a three-member board of county commissioners to the current five member council, with four districts and an at-large county chair, and allowed citizens to gather signatures to place initiatives and referenda on the ballot. 

The charter was approved in November 2014 with just over 53 percent of the vote.

One of the sticking points since then has been the position of county manager. 

After a protracted process, the county councilors unanimously approved the hiring of Shawn Henessee in 2018 to replace Mark McCauley, who was let go in 2017.

After less than two years on the job, Henessee resigned last month. Rumors persist that Henessee was asked to step down amid tensions with council members, though no one involved has commented publicly on Henessee’s departure. 

Henessee had been named as one of four finalists for the job of city manager in Joplin, Missouri last February. A fact the council reportedly learned about only when a newspaper article was brought to their attention.

Dalesandro admits there have been difficulties in transitioning to the form of government created by the home rule charter, and tensions with council members used to the old way, when they had more power to make decisions.

“I’m keeping my mind open to options, discussions,” Dalesandro says. “I feel like you have to enter this process having an understanding and willing to be collaborative. Because we’re reviewing a governing document here, we’re not necessarily putting out legislative policies.”

Dalesandro, who works for a supply chain company as his day job, was elected to the Battle Ground Planning Commission in 2008. Six years later he was elected to city council, where he was re-elected in 2018 and went on to serve one term as the city’s mayor.

He said that experience, which includes working with a city manager and a large, often divided council, would be worthwhile in a group aiming to refine how the county works.

“We have nearly 500,000 people in our county right now, and how we govern is so important,” says Dalesandro. “Everything that county does, whether it’s public safety, parks, transportation, conservation, growth management, job creation, you name it, the structure of the government plays a role in how those decisions are made. So I think people need to understand how important this really is.”

Dalesandro says, under the rules of the Charter Review Commission, he would not need to resign his Battle Ground City Council seat if elected in November.