White Salmon Mayor Linda Jones is no longer the city's mayor.
In a resignation letter addressed to members of the City Council, Jones explained that she was stepping aside, effective immediately.
"As of Aug. 17, I am respectfully resigning as mayor of White Salmon," the text of Jones' letter read. "You are all aware that I recently took a job in the Portland area that will keep me away substantially. It's very clear that I will not be able to give the city sufficient time and attention. This has not been an easy decision, but I know it is the right thing to do. I trust that you will appoint a new mayor for council as soon as possible. It has been a pleasure working with each and every one of you. Best wishes in your decision-making for the community of White Salmon."
The letter was read aloud at the Aug. 17 meeting of the City Council by Judi Culp, a City Hall clerk. Mayor Jones did not attend the council meeting.
In a separate public letter delivered later, Jones took a more personal tack.
"To those of you who voted for me, I am sorry that I cannot fulfill my term," she wrote. "To my friends who have supported and believed in me, thank you!"
Jones, who has taken a job for Safeway Corp. in the Portland area, did not return telephone calls seeking comment.
City Attorney Deborah Phillips advised the council members that by law, they would choose the new mayor until a qualified person is elected at the next election.
The Klickitat County Auditor's Office has set a special filing period, Sept. 7-9, to accept filings from those who want to get on the ballot for the open mayor's seat. Those wanting to run to be mayor of White Salmon need to go in person to the Auditor's Office at the County Courthouse in Goldendale to fill out a declaration of candidacy.
The position will be voted on this November.
To serve as mayor, candidates must live within the city limits of White Salmon, be a registered voter, and be at least 18 years of age. There is also a $36 filing fee for the position.
The winning candidate will serve out the unexpired two years remaining in Jones' original four-year term.
After a short executive session to discuss a possible replacement for Mayor Jones, the City Council members reconvened.
Council member Susan Benedict said she believed it would be wise to open the selection process to any resident of White Salmon who wanted to be considered for the mayor's office.
"It doesn't have to be a council member. We should be open to some people in the community who have experience. If we take one of us, we'll have an open council position as well," Benedict said.
Until the November election, however, councilor Richard Marx said he knew who he wanted to serve as mayor, and he made his views public during the meeting.
"I'd like to nominate Penny White Morris to be mayor," Marx said.
Morris, who has served as a City Council member for the past eight years, said she would serve if that was the decision of the other council members.
"I would be more than happy to do so," Morris said.
Council member Susan Gookin said she too was interested in the position.
"I would like to throw my name in too," Gookin said.
Phillips advised the council that there was no need to choose a new mayor immediately.
"This is a very important decision for the city. She [Jones] just resigned today, and you should feel free to take the time necessary," Phillips said. "Tabling this until the next meeting is certainly appropriate, but I would definitely encourage coming to a decision at the next meeting."
The next meeting of the White Salmon City Council is scheduled for 6 p.m. on Sept. 7.
After the meeting, council members shared their views of the mayor's departure.
"I wasn't expecting it," Gookin said. "I'd heard rumors, but I don't pay attention to that. It's all kind of a big shock."
Gookin added that she was willing to serve as mayor if the council members wanted her to take on the job.
"I feel I should offer my assistance," she said.
Gookin added that she did not know if the council will consider appointing someone who is not currently serving on the council.
"I don't know if anyone would want to jump into it with colder feet than us. We're a little closer to it," Gookin said.
Morris said Mayor Jones called her with the news of her departure on Tuesday evening.
"She called and said she was disappointed in the free-for-all the meetings had become. I told her that as a council member, I'm supposed to know what's going on, and she has not been forthcoming," Morris explained. "She said she believed she had been more forthcoming than previous administrations. I told her I disagreed, and we left it at that."
According to Morris, Mayor Jones suggested her own replacement.
"The mayor told me when she called me about resigning that she had personally asked Susan Gookin to become mayor, and hoped I would support her [Gookin]," Morris said. "I thought that was pretty arrogant."
Gookin said she could not comment on that.
"I can't comment on what anybody else said," Gookin said. "I don't know what she [Jones] said to anybody. You're better off asking the mayor. I'd like to think the City Council people will consider what's best for the city, and not for their own personal agenda. We need to be flexible, and I'm willing to be flexible too. There are so many things up in the air."
Morris said that if she is appointed to serve in the mayor's office, she would try to heal the divisions in the city.
"I would do my best to try to mend some of the breaks that have occurred," Morris said.
Francis Gaddis said the timing of Jones' departure was not ideal.
"We've got a lot of things that need to be taken care of," he explained.
Gaddis summed up the nature of the challenges facing the new mayor.
"Whoever takes over will need a lot of support from the rest of the council, the public, and all the employees to make things work like they should," he said.