Mayor Marla Keethler, formerly councilor for the City of White Salmon Position No. 5, was sworn into office during a Jan. 2 City Council meeting. Campaigning on a platform of transparency in the Mayor’s office and focus on the City’s comprehensive plan’s update, Keethler comes into office after having received 84.7% of the vote, beating out White Salmon resident Douglas Charters during the Nov. 5 General Election.
After spending nearly 20 years in a career in broadcast television, Keether, 39, was first elected to White Salmon’s City Council in 2017 after shifting gears and moving back to the Pacific Northwest a year prior.
Last week, The Enterprise reached out to Keether to learn more about what went down her first few days in office.
Keethler explained that she has already performed a few actions as Mayor. She has set a schedule for “Ask the Mayor” sessions in 2020, a seeming acknowledgement of one of her campaign promises. One Tuesday every month from 12 p.m. to 5 p.m., Keethler said she will open office hours for constituents to “come ask questions, give input, seek help with a current problem, or give any other feedback to [Keethler] directly.”
Also accomplished this first week in office, Keethler said she has issued a letter of support for Programs for Peaceful Living in their mission to fundraise the construction of a domestic violence shelter in Goldendale, which would be the single one of its kind in Klickitat County. Programs for Peaceful Living, a community organization under the umbrella of Washington Gorge Action Programs, which serves to provide support to victims of crime or abuse, is set to submit an application for a grant to fund the shelter’s construction and was the recipient of a $20,000 donation for the cause from the Skyline Foundation.
In a recent Q&A with The Enterprise, then Mayor-elect Keethler noted there would a reset of expectations. Responding to a follow-up, Keethler said that “a change in leadership has happened, but as I answer this question less than 5 days into my term, my approach as a leader is to also recognize that noticeable change takes time. My aim is that in one year, residents will see ways in which the city is better serving them.”
Keethler also said she is actively considering hiring a dedicated City planner, without offering more details.
Addressing priorities for the City, Keethler said the Comprehensive Plan update is a major point of focus “for all branches of our local government.”
“Making sure my administration supports the efforts of the Planning Commission and the Council through this process is critical. That will include adherence to deadlines and assisting with and strongly encouraging inclusive, constructive public outreach that goes beyond the mandated public hearings,” Keethler explained in an email.
“Working with the council to clean up our city codes is also high on the list, as well as exploring available avenues to expanding funding for street improvements,” Keethler added.
As for what residents of White Salmon should expect next from the newest head executive of the City, Keethler explained that she is in the process of drafting proposed priorities for the City’s legislative agenda. Keethler plans to present these to the council by the next meeting for a vote, which is set for Jan. 15 at 7 p.m.
“Those priorities will serve as the points of emphasis I will be making with our state representatives during the upcoming short session and will be based on priorities set by the council at our summer retreat,” said Keethler.
Under the revised code of Washington, mayors have certain powers. They are the chief executive and administrative officer of the city, with the authority to designate assistants and department heads. The mayor sees that all laws and ordinances are faithfully enforced and that law and order is maintained. Mayors also have the power to approve or disapprove official bonds and bonds of contractors with the city. Mayors also preside over Council meetings and have tie-breaking authority on most votes. Mayors also have veto power but can also be overridden by a supermajority of the Council.
Mayors in White Salmon serve a term of four years and are paid $655 per month.
Following is the schedule of days Keethler will be holding open office hours: January 30, February 27, March 19, April 30, May 28, June 18, July 30, August 27, September 24, October 22, November 19, December 17.
CORRECTION: The article has been edited to reflect that Skyline Foundation contributed $20,000, not $50,000, towards the establishment of a domestic violence shelter in Klickitat County.