Determined to streamline what he considered an unwieldy committee system, Mayor David Poucher asked for -- and won -- the support of the White Salmon City Council to a series of alterations.
The biggest change was in the number of committees the City Council will have. Instead of 11 committees, there will now be five, although they will be grouped to essentially cover the same ground.
"I've reduced the number of committees we have," Poucher said to the council members during the regular meeting on Dec. 5.
The five new committees for 2008 will be:
Human resources (fire, police, and personnel, union and non-union); Chair: Bob Landgren; member: Leana Johnson;
Finance/audit; Chair: Leana Johnson; member: Brad Roberts;
City operations (water, wastewater, health and sanitation, parks and recreation, and streets); Chair: Richard Marx; member: Bob Landgren;
Business partners (tourism); Chair: Brad Roberts; member: Timi Keene; and
Annexation (real estate); Chair: Bob Landgren; member: Richard Marx.
Gone are the separate committees for health & sanitation, fire, police, parks & recreation, street, personnel & union negotiation, water & wastewater, tourism, and real estate.
Another big change reflects the new realities in the composition of the City Council. Mayor Poucher appointed two of the newly elected council members -- Bob Landgren and Leana Johnson -- to three of the leadership positions on the committees.
Council member Timi Keene, who previously chaired the parks & recreation committee and the personnel/union negotiation committee, was not selected to chair any of the five new committees. Keene will serve only on the business partners committee, which is chaired by Roberts.
After Poucher made his recommendations, Keene asked whether the changes needed a vote of the City Council.
"Does this have to change by ordinance?" Keene asked. "Having 12 committees is spelled out in the ordinance."
The city attorney, Ken Woodrich, said he believed the mayor was within his rights because he was not doing away with the committees, but simply combining them.
"I don't see any reason why this couldn't take place," Woodrich said. "But a motion could be made."
The council members then voted 5-0 to approve the reconfiguration of the committee system.
Poucher said having fewer committees would also make it easier for citizens to attend the sessions.
"I think having fewer committees and fewer meetings to attend seems like a lot better way to serve the people of White Salmon, and that's why we're here and why I did this," Poucher explained.
After the meeting, Keene questioned the new committee system.
"Combining the committees had been proposed over a year ago, but tabled by the council," Keene explained. "It's unfortunate that more forethought wasn't given to exactly what responsibilities each committee should have, or that council and staff weren't consulted as to how best to assign those responsibilities."
Council member Marx saw it differently.
"The committees are set up much better now," Marx said. "The committees have been consolidated, so there's a lot less confusion."
Marx said the dates for the committee sessions -- which are open to the public -- will be announced about two weeks in advance of the meetings.
The committees will meet once a month.