The form of government in Washougal will remain the same, after the defeat of Proposition 1.
The measure would have changed the form from mayor-council with a city administrator to council-manager.
Proposition 1 received 996 votes for it (34.38 percent) and 1,901 votes against it (65.62 percent).
City Councilman Brent Boger said he was disappointed with the results.
He, along with council members Joyce Lindsay and Jennifer McDaniel, served on the committee that wrote a statement supporting Proposition 1 for the voters’ pamphlet.
“It probably had something to do with having the mayor’s election at the same time,” he said regarding the defeat.
Boger said before the issue is ever tried again, the legislature would need to allow delayed implementation of the proposition.
“It would have been great if we could have adopted it this year and not gone into effect for four years,” Boger said. “The new mayor serves out his term, and it commences after fresh elections in 2017.”
He also would want the legislature to allow direct election of the mayor under the new system.
That would involve changing one of the council positions to mayor, and voters would elect the mayor.
“I think the margin was so big [in the defeat of Proposition 1], that it would be unwise to bring this up again until we have at least a several year community conversation about it,” Boger said.
With a council-manager form of government, a city manager appoints and directs the department heads. A city manager can be removed by a majority vote of the council.
With a council-manager system, a mayor is selected from among the city council members. That person presides at council meetings and is head of the city for ceremonial purposes, but has no regular administrative duties.
Former Mayor Jeff Guard, Washougal Planning Commissioner Larry White and Washougal resident Marilyn Tyrrell prepared a statement opposing Proposition 1 for the voters’ pamphlet.
Guard is a brother of Mayor Sean Guard.
“There were too many questions that were left unanswered,” Jeff said. “The timing of this was very strange, to say the least. Why do this in a year when there is a mayoral election?
“It created a lot of confusion in the community,” he added. “I’m sorry it became so divisive, and in some cases it became very personal. There were some things that were said that were very hurtful on both sides. From my perspective, I thought a lot of that was undeserved and shouldn’t have happened.”
McDaniel said it has been good to have the communications with citizens about the pluses and minuses of both forms of government.
“I do still believe that the council manager form of government could be a better option for a city our size,” she said. “As we continue to grow we should revisit this option, but I have no definite time frame in mind for bringing this back to the voters.”
White said Washougal citizens recognized the progress the city has made with the incumbent mayor and want him to continue to provide leadership for another four years.
“I would like to compliment the voters in Washougal for taking the time to consider and understand a very complicated ballot measure that, if passed, would not allow the mayor they choose to take office,” White said.
The Washougal City Council voted in July to put Proposition 1 on the ballot.
“The people had a chance to vote and to choose, so I’m comfortable with that,” Lindsay said. “I’m disappointed, but I’m comfortable.”
Lindsay described the low voter turnout as “really appalling.”
“I’ve been looking at returns all over the state,” she said. “We did not have a very large turnout for the primary. Are people apathetic? Are they confused? I think people don’t understand government. We pay so much attention to national issues that catch our fancy. Local government is what affects our lives the most every day.”
Clark County Auditor Greg Kimsey said there are 8,332 active registered voters in Washougal.
Tyrrell said she and other committee members spent a lot of time and energy finding the essence of their message, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”
“Brent Boger says that I misjudged him and for that I apologize, but I still believe that someone on the City Council wants to be mayor,” she added. “Running the city well is more important than replacing a system that is working well for one that is doubtful, both in questions of management and in matters of cost.”
Mayor Sean Guard will serve second term
If Proposition 1 had been approved by voters, Sean Guard would have become an eighth council member for the remainder of his current term through Dec. 31 and the results of the mayoral race with Earl Scott would have become moot.
Guard received 1,511 votes (53.6 percent), and Scott received 1,308 votes (46.4 percent).
Guard said he is honored and humbled to be re-elected.
“Over the last four years, we have worked diligently for the residents and businesses of our community and have strived to keep the well-being of Washougal our number one goal,” he said in a statement issued Monday. “It appears that a majority of our residents agree with the direction that we are heading and the successes we are having.”
Guard made a pledge to keep moving forward, run the city in an efficient manner and look at ways to improve the city’s service to the community.
“We will continue to work to contain costs, and at the same time minimize any additional revenues needed to keep Washougal on the road to recovery,” he added. “I love this community, and with the help of the council and our residents, we will continue to make it even stronger than we are today.”
Scott, a captain with the Camas-Washougal Fire Department, has lived in Washougal for 28 years.
“I would like to thank those that voted for me as well as everyone that took the time to cast their vote,” he said. “I would have liked to have won the election. The loss does not deter me from giving back to my community.
“Sean ran a good clean campaign for mayor, and I respect him for his actions toward me,” Scott added. “As with Sean, we want the best for Washougal.”