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Holen Named Interim Mayor

New mayor is old mayor

Roger Holen, a former two-term mayor of the city of White Salmon, has been selected by the White Salmon City Council to be the city's interim mayor.

In a 3-2 vote on Sept. 7, Holen was chosen to serve in the office at least until the results of the election on Nov. 8 are certified.

The vacancy in the mayor's office was created when Linda Jones, elected to a four-year term in 2003, resigned from the office to take a job in the Portland area.

Council member Susan Benedict nominated Holen to serve as the city's interim mayor, and the motion was seconded by Susan Gookin.

The subsequent vote was 2-2, with councilors Benedict and Gookin voting for Holen and Richard Marx and Penny White Morris voting against. Francis Gaddis, serving as mayor pro tem, then broke the tie in favor of Holen.

"I feel it's appropriate to ask -- would you accept?" Gaddis asked Holen, who was present at the meeting.

"I would accept, and I am honored by your choice," Holen responded. "Thank you. It's good to be back."

Before the motion to nominate Holen, council member Marx had nominated fellow council member Morris to serve as interim mayor.

However, the city attorney, Deborah Phillips, advised the council against naming a sitting council member to serve in the mayor's office.

"I've reviewed case law and talked with the attorney general's office," Phillips explained. "A council member could be appointed to serve as mayor, but several attorney general opinions take the view that a member of the legislative body would not be appropriate to fill the position of mayor. My advice to you is that it would not be appropriate to appoint a council member. I didn't think it was going to come up, or we would have talked before tonight."

"So what happens to my motion?" Marx asked.

"I think the motion really needs to be withdrawn," Phillips said.

"Based on that, I withdraw the motion," Marx responded.

After the vote naming Holen as mayor, he took the oath of office and returned to service as mayor, a position he held from 1995-2003.

"It seems to me there have been some bridges burned over the past two months, and chief among them is the tension between the mayor and City Council. I'd like to rebuild that bridge," Holen said.

As one initial step in doing so, he said he would not allow the city attorney to negotiate the new labor contract with White Salmon's union employees.

"The City Council and mayor will handle that," Holen said.

On Friday, Holen said he was ready to resume the duties of mayor.

"It's called hit the ground running," he said. "There are things that should have been done over the past couple months that simply weren't. There are some things that can't wait for the election. One is the union contract, another is the budget. Those items are not so much the purview of the mayor as they are the City Council."

Holen explained how he came to be back in the mayor's office.

"I was approached by some members of the City Council to see if I was willing to be appointed. After a lot of soul searching, I agreed to it," he said.

As the Sept. 9 deadline passed, three White Salmon residents had signed up to run for mayor in the November election: Roger Holen, Penny White Morris, and Douglas R. Charters.

Morris said she had heard from citizens asking her to run for mayor.

"I'm running for the people who need a voice," she said. "The people have got to decide who to have as mayor. Appointment by the council is a bit unfair, because it's not the voice of the people. I'm anxious to see what the people have to say."

Charters, a mechanic with SDS Lumber Co., said he is running for mayor because he cares about his community and wants to spark more citizen interest in the way the city is run.

"I love my community. It's a fine place to be, and I've been here all my life," Charters said. "I put my name in the hat, and maybe we'll get more voter participation."

With an election campaign getting started, Holen said he looks forward to the opportunity to make his case to the citizens of White Salmon.

"In the term prior to my being elected [1995], there were three mayors in four years. That's not fair to the city, and it's not a productive way to do things. Consistency is important," Holen explained. "Whether the voters see it that way, we'll find out in November."

For now, however, Holen said he will simply concentrate of trying to move the city forward and rebuild some of the divisions that have cropped up.

"I'm honored the City Council chose me to fill the role on an interim basis," Holen said. "Despite the fact it'll be a lot of work rebuilding burned bridges, it's good to be back."

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