Washougal City Council members to decide whether to fill vacant position

Workshop and meeting to be held in virtual format Monday

On Thursday evening, Washougal Mayor Molly Coston and City Manager Dave Scott hosted an online “Conversation with the Mayor.” At issue was a coming decision by the City Council, and a choice for voters on the November ballot regarding the election of their mayor in Washougal.

At its meeting on Monday (Sept. 28), the Washougal City Council will determine whether or not they will fill the council position vacated by Ray Kutch. Graphic from city of Washougal presentation
At its meeting on Monday (Sept. 28), the Washougal City Council will determine whether or not they will fill the council position vacated by Ray Kutch. Graphic from city of Washougal presentation

Former Council Member Ray Kutch resigned his position on Sept. 11. Normally, the City Council would interview interested parties and then appoint one person to fill the vacant position. But due to the nuances of the recent change in form of government, the council has a couple of options according to Scott.

In November 2018, Washougal voters passed Proposition 8 that changed the city’s form

of government from Mayor-Council to Council-Manager.  The City Council  then selected Molly

Coston as mayor to serve as the council chair and as the ceremonial head of the city.

Members of the Washougal City Council have two choices to consider regarding the vacant council position. Photo by Mike Schultz
Members of the Washougal City Council have two choices to consider regarding the vacant council position. Photo by Mike Schultz

When an incumbent executive mayor is in office and a change of government occurs,

going from Council-Mayor to Council-Manager, the sitting executive mayor becomes an

eighth council member. They remain seated until the expiration of the mayoral term to which

they were elected. The statutory construct for councils for communities of the size of

Washougal is seven members.

Presently, Mayor Molly Coston is the eighth council member and her term ends in December 2021. The eighth council member position would be eliminated at the expiration of that term. 

Washougal is in a unique situation according to Scott. “We may be the only code city in the state that has eight council members right now,” he said. “We will be in that situation until the end of December next year.” However, the resignation of Council Member Ray Kutch presents an opportunity to move back to the standard seven member council earlier than December 2021.’’

There are two choices the members of the Washougal City Council will consider this coming Monday.

Members of the Washougal City Council have two choices to consider regarding the vacant council position. Graphic courtesy of city of Washougal
Members of the Washougal City Council have two choices to consider regarding the vacant council position. Graphic courtesy of city of Washougal

The first choice is for the council to leave the position Kutch occupied unfilled. That would leave seven people on the Washougal City Council. 

The second choice starts a longer process. The city would advertise for applicants for a three-week period. The candidates would be interviewed by the members of the City Council during a regular council meeting. Later in that month at the second meeting toward the end of the month, there’d be an appointment of a council member. 

“The result of following that process would be that our council membership would stay at this sort of unique number of eight through the end of next year,” said Scott.

In both options, position five would be on the November 2021 ballot. “The winner of that election in November of 2021 would assume the position immediately upon certification of the results, because you’re filling the unexpired term,” said Scott.

There is another issue and “choice’’ to be made.

“There’s an extra twist,” said Scott.  “On this November’s ballot is direct election of the mayor.” 

That does confuse a number of people, according to Scott. If the proposition on this November’s ballot is passed, the mayor would be elected by the people; and assigned position one as a voting member of the council.

If the people reject the November proposition for direct election of the mayor, then the City Council would choose the mayor from among themselves. Battle Ground as an example of a city where the mayor is chosen by members of the City Council.

There are many nuances to consider. The citizens of Washougal are encouraged to speak with their elected representatives and make input. They are also encouraged to view the virtual workshop and council meeting on Monday (Sept. 28). The workshop begins at 5 p.m. The council meeting begins at 7 p.m. For more information, go to https://www.cityofwashougal.us/ .

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