Washougal City Council stays at seven members

Council members elect not to fill vacancy

At their Monday meeting, members of the Washougal City Council chose not to fill the council position 5 opening, created when Ray Kutch resigned earlier this month. Last week, Mayor Molly Coston and City Manager Dave Scott held an online “Conversation with the Mayor” which explained the choices the council faced. 

Washougal Mayor Molly Coston fills vacant council seat and is reaffirmed as mayor by the City Council at Monday’s meeting. Photo by Mike Schultz.
Washougal Mayor Molly Coston fills vacant council seat and is reaffirmed as mayor by the City Council at Monday’s meeting. Photo by Mike Schultz.

Former Council Member Ray Kutch resigned his position on Sept. 11. He and his wife will be moving to Idaho. 

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 had a couple of options according to Scott.Those options were explained last week, and touched on briefly again at Monday’s council meeting.

(Read previous Clark County Today story here.)

Because Washougal citizens had changed their form of government by enacting a charter, they temporarily had eight members of the City Council. Mayor Coston became the eighth member. The council would have returned to seven members at the end of Coston’s elected term of office. 

Because of the Kutch resignation, the council was able to either fill the vacancy, or stay at their present seven members. 

Council Member Ernie Suggs said: “we’re going to have to revert back to seven eventually. We might as well just take that plunge and do it now.”

Council Member Paul Greenlee spoke in favor of filling the vacancy. 

“One of the things that I learned when I was in business, especially big businesses, was you cannot be promoted, you cannot retire, until you have hired and trained your replacement,’’ Greenlee said. “Filling position five with someone new, gives us an opportunity to train our replacement. 

“There are at least one and possibly several of us who will leave Council at the end of 21,” said Greenlee, referring to 2021. “I personally think I have a responsibility to the community to turn over a council that is trained and capable and very much engaged in the community’s best interest. And I frankly am not entirely sure that an open election creates that.”

The City Council split 3-3 in their vote. Coston cast the tie-breaker, voting to not fill the vacant position. “ I do believe that in the civil democratic process, we will be back to the seven positions that we normally have. I’ve thought about this a long time, but I think this is the better solution.”

Following passage of the motion, the council then approved a motion to make Coston the mayor. The charter voters approved has the City Council chose the mayor from among their members.