During a special White Salmon City Council session that was open to the public, two candidates for mayor -- Richard Marx and Francis Gaddis, both City Council members -- were interviewed by the other three members of the council.
In a process that went swiftly, each mayoral hopeful was asked the same seven questions on the evening of Sept. 27, while the other candidate was waiting out of the room.
Before the interviews took place, council member Timi Keene, chair of the city's personnel committee, told the crowd of about 15 citizens that the choice would not be an easy one.
"We are proud of our membership and feel strongly about the relationships we have formed with one another, but circumstances have forced us to choose between ourselves," Keene said. "We ask that you support whatever decision and person we eventually decide upon, and that we all move in a positive direction for the health of the city and our community."
The mayor's office will apparently be filled soon, but there will be at least one more position to fill. As the interviews with the two mayoral candidates were about to begin, Gaddis told the council he was resigning his City Council position.
"I am prepared to resign before the interview starts, so at this time I will resign my position on the council on this date," Gaddis said.
In a Sept. 25 memorandum, White Salmon's city attorney, Deborah Phillips, advised the City Council that any council member wanting to run for mayor should resign even before the candidate interviews took place.
"Washington recognizes the common law principle that a public officer may not simultaneously hold two incompatible offices ... The office of mayor and the office of council member cannot be held by the same person, so the doctrine applies," Phillips wrote. "The council members who are interested in the mayoral appointment should unconditionally and without qualification resign from the City Council prior to the appointment of a mayor. I suggest that the resignation would most appropriately occur prior to interviews by the remaining council members."
In his interview, Gaddis pointed out that he has a depth of experience in city government.
"I have served at least eight years on the City Council, and served as mayor for two terms," he said.
Gaddis was asked what steps he would take to improve communications between the council and mayor.
"We need total communication on everything that happens, as long as it's legal to tell the council," Gaddis said.
In response to the question, "how would your administration be different from the previous two," Gaddis responded: "I would research everything before I made the commitment to do what has been done."
Gaddis was then asked his view of what the top three issues facing the city are.
"The water situation," Gaddis responded. "Also, we need to straighten out the situation with the Police Department, and I hope it's straightened out soon. It's not up to me. The offer was made to the former police chief. It's his ball game now. And we need to quit micro-managing the information set forth, and trust people."
Asked how he would help to develop more trust between the city and the community, Gaddis offered a short reply: "Being truthful with everything you say and do is first and foremost," he said.
Another question related to how "the daily duties of your current job assist you in your performance as mayor," and Gaddis pointed to his position with Hood River Ford.
"I work for one of my sons, and we're managing over a $300 million business and it's very successful," Gaddis explained.
In response to a question about the most pressing concern about the city's budget, Gaddis said the new clerk-treasurer would play a large role in handling that.
"Our new clerk-treasurer just started, and I visit him every day without fail. I feel very comfortable he will do a great job," he said.
Gaddis said he believed he was the best choice for mayor because of his previous experience.
"I feel you need the experience of someone in a position to make the decisions that have to be made," he said. "Regardless of who you choose, I will support your decision."
Marx promised that if he were appointed to the mayor's office, he would improve communication between the council and mayor.
"I would provide the council with information sooner than they have been," he said.
"What do you see as the three most important issues facing the city, and how would you respond as mayor?" Marx was asked.
"One, water rights," Marx said. "How to obtain them and stay in close touch with the Department of Ecology and Department of Health. Two, the budget. I would stay in close touch with the clerk-treasurer. And for the third, I would keep up on all the court cases."
As for ways to establish trust between the city and the community, Marx said trust would come "in time."
"If appointed, in time I would gain their trust," Marx said. "At this point, not many trust the administration."
When asked how the "daily duties of his job would assist" in his performance as mayor, Marx, who owns Bent Nail Construction, a roofing company, said his job experiences would not help him as mayor.
"Maybe I could roof City Hall," Marx joked, adding: "I don't believe my job duties will help me at all."
To the next question, about "the most pressing concerns regarding the city's budget," Marx responded that the problems were simple.
"Overexpenditures, budget amendments, and keeping accurate numbers," he said.
After the interviews, Keene said the council would decide whether to appoint Marx or Gaddis as mayor at its Oct. 4 meeting.
Before the questions began, a couple of the citizens at the session offered their views on what the mayor should offer to the city.
John Mayo, who serves as chair of the city's Planning Commission, said vision was essential and urged that the candidates be asked if they have a vision for the future of White Salmon.
"The mayor is a leader to get the city moving," Mayo said. "I see the City Council as a dysfunctional body, and I worry about seeing the mayor come out of this body. The mayor's office affects everyone who lives in the White Salmon city limits, and the public's business is sacred, like church."
Mayo added that he believes the council's delays and second-guessing is hurting the city.
"It sends a terrible message when the council drags their feet on everything, and that's what I see happening here," Mayo said. "This year, not one thing the Planning Commission has recommended has been passed in an expeditious manner."
Mayo said he believes some council members only "show up and vote."
"We depend on every one of you. You need to make sure we get the highest level of government, because this town deserves it," Mayo explained. "This is a great city with great, capable people who have been all around the world and done great things and then settled here. Why not one of them wanted to step up to serve as mayor amazes me, and that speaks to the negative culture they see here. Vision is so critical. We have to trust each other."
After Mayo offered his view, another city resident, Clyde Knowles, said he believed the experience of those on the council was also important.
"I partially agree with you," Knowles said. "But we have a lot of experience here. Let's keep that experience. I hope and pray whoever goes in is someone who is familiar with the program right now."
Knowles added that he believes the mayor's salary should be increased.
"For anybody to come in and take this lousy job for $300 a month is insane," Knowles said. "We should double or triple that salary."
After the meeting, Marx said he believed the call for resignations in advance of the interviews was aimed at him.
"This is no more than a dirty trick to get Ricky to resign," Marx said. "They wanted Francis and I to both resign, than they would pick a mayor and the other one of us would be kicked to the curb. Who do you think that would have been?"