No one ever said serving as a member of the White Salmon City Council would be easy. That was certainly true last week during the council's decision process on who to appoint to an open seat on the council.
The council had to choose among four local citizens, who were interviewed in public during the Nov. 1 council meeting.
The council interviewed Susan Gookin, a small business owner and former member of the City Council; Bob Landgren, owner of Vanguard Nursery; John Mayo, who currently serves as chair of the city's Planning Commission; and Leana Johnson, a buyer with Insitu.
All four candidates were interviewed at length, and then the council members went into an executive session, closed to the press and public, to discuss the merits of the candidates.
Before adjourning for the private session, Mayor Francis Gaddis said he wasn't sure if the council would be able to make a choice.
"Whether we'll decide tonight, I don't know," said Gaddis. "These are all very good candidates and it'll be hard to decide. It's too bad there is not enough room for everybody."
After the council members came out of the executive session, the choice was announced: John Mayo was chosen in a 3-2 vote.
"The vote was 2-2, and I had to break the tie," explained Gaddis.
Susan Benedict and Brad Roberts favored Mayo, while Timi Keene and Richard Marx voted against the choice.
Benedict said she believed Mayo was the strongest choice to fill the council slot.
"He certainly has a lot of compassion for our community. He has sponsored the Nights in White Salmon events, he's a businessman downtown, he has a vision, direction, and a positive attitude. We need that right now," Benedict said. She added that Mayo's background will also serve him well on the City Council.
"He certainly had a lot of experience with the Planning Commission as far as government process goes," Benedict explained.
Keene said she voted against Mayo because she wanted to postpone the decision until the next council meeting.
"I would have preferred more information, despite excellent responses during the interview process," Keene said. "Each candidate represented a very positive aspect for the council. I was really impressed with the responses and how intent the audience was."
Gaddis said there was no reason to delay the process.
"They wanted to find out more, but they were the ones who set up the questions," Gaddis said. "The candidates answered the questions. You don't change the rules after making the rules."
Marx said he did not believe Mayo was a good choice for the City Council.
"First of all, this is a guy who came into City Council and read us the riot act and told us none of us were even qualified to be mayor, then told us we were choking out and dragging down the city of White Salmon," Marx said. "He wholeheartedly supported Roger [Holen] in the recall. He's allowed to park on the sidewalk, blocking the crosswalk. I've seen him at maybe two City Council meetings this year, and both times to tell us we're doing a poor job."
Marx said he believed Bob Landgren had earned the right to serve on the City Council.
"I flat-out told them I was 100 percent in support of Landgren. That's all there is to it," Marx said. "Mayo has lived here five years, and they chose him over someone who has lived here his whole life. By not choosing Landgren, to me they are saying to the public: `Shut up.' As far as I'm concerned, Landgren represents 61 percent of the people of the city."
Gaddis said he believes Mayo will be an effective council member.
"I believe he'll do a good job. He's very thorough and seems to be community-oriented," Gaddis said.
On Nov. 7, Mayo said he was honored to be appointed to the position.
"I am honored the council thinks my skill-set will be useful to the city, and I am very pleased to be able to serve the community in this capacity," he said. "I am looking forward to continuing my role in the downtown revitalization process and providing a positive and dynamic image of our community to the region."
Mayo added that he was highly impressed with the three other candidates who were seeking the council seat.
"It has been a long time since I have heard so much optimism about and commitment to the city and its business," Mayo explained. "There was such a strong field of candidates, and I think that fact bodes well for the direction the city is headed."
Before Mayo's selection, all four candidates appeared one by one to answer questions from the other council members.
Gaddis said he was appreciative for the interest from all the candidates.
"I want to thank the people who came forward and applied. It shows people haven't lost faith in us. We had some good candidates, real good top-notch people," Gaddis said. "Who knows, there may be other vacancies along the way."
Because Mayo was a member of the White Salmon Planning Commission, there will now be an opening there. Gaddis encouraged those who wanted to serve on the City Council to consider applying for the opening on the Planning Commission, which makes decisions regarding conditional use permits, zoning variances, and comprehensive plan amendments.
Mayo will be sworn in at the council's Nov. 15 meeting.