The Bingen City Council has unanimously approved appointing Jan Brending, the city's clerk/treasurer, to be the city administrator.
The position is new to the city of Bingen, which has not had a city administrator in the past.
"As far as I know, this is the first time," said Bingen Mayor Brian Prigel, who asked the council to approve the appointment. "The concept has been kicked around for awhile, and the city's budget committee brought this up recently and recommended it. I certainly supported it. I think it'll help us in the long run."
Prigel said there were many reasons why he wanted to appoint Brending to the new position.
"Jan wears a lot of hats, and does a lot for us," explained Prigel. "A lot of things would not have happened without Jan's help. She makes the wheels go around. This gives her the title she deserves, and really reflects what she is actually doing. The only change is, there would be a little bit of oversight of employees."
Prigel pointed out that Brending has been handling grant writing, grant management, and construction contract management as part of her work for the city over the years. She has also drafted and researched a number of ordinances.
"If the council approves this, it represents a relatively modest increase in pay, two steps above what she currently gets. Our steps are small, and this is something she deserves," Prigel added.
According to Prigel, the pay increase represents about $200 a month.
"We looked at our budget and felt it was a worthy exchange," said council member Laura Mann. "She hasn't had a pay raise in 18 months."
However, one citizen attending the recent council meeting objected to the move.
"I have a problem with it," said Marilyn Winters. "We have hired a second person in the office to help Jan, but she has time to go help White Salmon."
Brending, however, pointed out that her work helping the city of White Salmon with its budget comes outside of her hours working for Bingen.
"I have given up a lot of my own time to help White Salmon out," Brending said.
But Winters noted that Brending lives in White Salmon.
"No disrespect, but I don't think a person who does not live in Bingen should have any authority over Bingen employees," she said.
"I see my role as facilitating the goals of the City Council, and seeing that they are implemented," Brending said. "This maybe just gives the authority to facilitate situations and get them taken care of so they don't become a crisis."
Council member Betty Barnes said Brending's efforts on behalf of Bingen were solid and impressive.
"The mayor doesn't have the time to watch over this, because he has a job. Jan is here every day and sees what's happening," Barnes said. "The city needs one person who oversees our employees."
Barnes said she strongly supported the upgraded title and pay for Brending.
"It's time we step up to the plate and pay the person for doing the job she is doing," Barnes said.
An official from the Port of Klickitat who attended the meeting added his voice of support for making Brending the city administrator.
"The regulatory complexity we face is much greater than in the past," said Jim Donnelly, who serves as deputy executive director for the Port of Klickitat. "I'm impressed with the breadth of her knowledge and experience. This seems like a good idea to me."
Council member Tim Hearn agreed.
"We can't just pick someone off the city street and be the clerk. The education Jan has is far too valuable to lose," Hearn said.
The City Council's vote to confirm the appointment of Brending to city administrator was 5-0.