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Mason Is New Planner After Mayor's First Choice Voted Down

Process opened for better outcome

After rejecting the first candidate nominated by Mayor Francis Gaddis, members of the White Salmon City Council held a special meeting on June 27 to choose between two other candidates, Herb Hardin and Bill Mason.

Following interviews with the two, the City Council members recommended the appointment of Mason, 56, who serves as a Fire Commissioner for Fire District No. 3 in Husum.

The vote to recommend Mason was 2-1, with council members Timi Keene and Brad Roberts voting in favor. John Mayo preferred Herb Hardin, the other candidate who applied for the opening.

Mayor Gaddis accepted the council's recommendation and appointed Mason to serve in the role.

"I feel he will do a good job," Gaddis said. "He has a good background."

"The mayor graciously opened the process and made us partners in the process," said Mayo. "That made for a better outcome."

"I just want to get the work done," said Gaddis. "And I'd like to utilize the other person if another space opens."

Gaddis pointed out that the work of the Planning Commission is vital.

"It lays out our city's plans for the future. The commission's decisions are very important," Gaddis said.

The Planning Commission seat was left open following the resignation of former Planning Commission member Jim Kacena in the spring.

Mason said he applied for the position because he wanted to help direct the way growth is happening in the area.

"I see the area growing and am concerned that the town maintain its charm and livability," Mason said. "The city's comprehensive plan is now almost 20 years old, and I'd like to participate in updating it. I'm also concerned with growth that may happen north of us. The Husum-BZ Corner sub-area plan is asking for 300 additional homes. That will have a great impact on White Salmon."

Despite the split vote, council members seemed pleased with the qualifications of both candidates.

"We had two excellent candidates, really experienced and with a lot of insight. If we'd had two openings, we wouldn't have had a problem appointing both of them," said council member Mayo. "I was really impressed. They were both smart and experienced people. Both showed a lot of understanding and handled themselves well. It was a really positive meeting."

In May, the council voted down the mayor's original choice to serve on the White Salmon Planning Commission, Leanna Johnson.

Gaddis' nomination of Johnson, which was subject to council approval, was overturned when only two council members -- Susan Benedict and Richard Marx -- voted to approve Johnson's appointment. A majority -- Brad Roberts, Timi Keene, and Mayo -- did not want to accept the mayor's appointment.

At that time, the city attorney, Deborah Phillips, reminded the council that commission members are routinely appointed by the mayor.

"This is a position the mayor determines, with approval of council," advised Phillips after Gaddis recommended that Johnson be appointed to the Planning Commission.

"Does the council consent?"

"No," Keene responded.

The 3-2 vote to oppose Johnson's appointment followed.

Council members indicated their vote was based on a consensus that other candidates had more land use experience and stronger qualifications than Johnson offered.

Gaddis said he wasn't sure what all the reasons were.

"I think they had objections and wanted more of a say, but I can't speak for them," Gaddis said, adding that he hoped both Johnson and Hardin would be considered for future appointments.

Mason lives outside the city limits in the Palos Verdes area. The five-member Planning Commission is set up to allow representation from two members who are not living in the city limits, and Mason thinks that is a wise approach.

"People in my neighborhood and the Pucker Huddle area ought to be included. We use those city services, and it would be wrong not to be able to participate," he explained.

The other four members of the Planning Commission are: Don Smith, chair; David Poucher; Suzie Willey; and Craig Spaeth.

Board meets at 5:30 p.m. on the second and fourth Wednesday of each month. The meetings, which are open to the public, are held at the White Salmon Fire Hall.

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