Camas mayor resigns unexpectedly

Barry McDonnell won write-in campaign weeks after entering contentious November 2019 race; Mayor Pro Tem Ellen Burton will lead city temporarily

timestamp icon
category icon Latest News, News
Camas Mayor Barry McDonnell (right) speaks to Camas residents John Ley (center) and Ernie Geigenmiller (left) at his first city council meeting in December 2019. McDonnell, a last-minute, write-in mayoral candidate, beat incumbent Mayor Shannon Turk in the November 2019 general election. (Photo by Kelly Moyer/Post-Record)

A little more than one year after winning a write-in campaign to lead the city of Camas, Mayor Barry McDonnell is stepping down and handing the reins to Mayor Pro Tem Ellen Burton. 

“Over the last few months, it has become clear to me that the needs of this Council, City and community are such that balancing a full-time job and family, while running the day-to-day operations as Mayor in our form of government is not sustainable for me,” McDonnell wrote in a letter sent to Camas city staff and media late Tuesday afternoon, May 11. 

The mayor said his role leading the city “has taken up so much of his physical and emotional presence” with his “rapidly growing children” and that he feels uncomfortable missing out on their lives. 

McDonnell and his wife, Anastasia McDonnell, who moved to Camas from Florida in 2016, have four children under the age of 15. 

McDonnell entered the 2019 mayoral race as a write-in candidate just five weeks before the general election in November 2019, telling the Post-Record in 2019: “there seemed to be a conflict of interest in how we approached things (in city leadership) … when I look at how we operate as a city, it feels like there is a disconnect between the mayor and citizens.” 

The newcomer to politics, like many Camas voters, opposed the city’s ballot question in 2019, which asked voters to decide if they wanted to build a $78 million community-aquatics center and upgrade several Camas area sports fields. 

McDonnell would later win the election, garnering 53 percent of the vote and beating incumbent Mayor Shannon Turk, who had been a longtime Camas City Council member before being appointed mayor after Mayor Scott Higgins resigned in 2018. 

“I rolled the dice as a write-in (mayoral candidate) and took winning as an extraordinary honor,” McDonnell wrote in his letter to staff. “It was a historical opportunity and a huge challenge, and I am proud of what we accomplished together, and that I was able to help lead this city through 2020.” 

McDonnell added that he was “able to serve 50 percent longer than the previous mayor’s turn (since Turk was appointed and went on to lose her election), but 50 percent less than Olive T. Clark, Camas’ forgotten mayor.” 

Camas Communications Director Bryan Rachal released a city statement Tuesday, saying: “While we’re surprised and saddened to see Mayor McDonnell step down from the role, we understand this is a personal decision between him and his family.  We appreciate the leadership Mayor McDonnell has provided the city and wish him the best in his future endeavors.”

Rachal said the city would provide more information regarding “next steps” soon, but that Burton would immediately take over mayoral duties for the city. Burton, whose council seat is up for reelection this year, has already said she does not intend to run as a city councilor in 2021.