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Camas mulls adding Juneteenth to official city holiday calendar

New city councilor questions Columbus Day exclusion

The Camas City Council is poised to add another date to the city’s list of official, paid holidays.

The council will consider passing a resolution this month that would make Juneteenth, the day commemorating the effective end of slavery in the United States, an official city holiday.

“This came up last fall, about the possibility of making Juneteenth a holiday, and, at the request of the mayor, this has been put before you to review,” Jennifer Gorsuch, the city’s administrative services director, told city councilmembers during the council’s Jan. 18 workshop.

If councilmembers approve the new holiday, city employees would have 11 official holiday days off each year, including New Year’s Day on Jan. 1; Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday on the third Monday of January; President’s Day on the third Monday of February; Memorial Day on the last Monday of May; Juneteenth on June 19; Independence Day on July 4; Labor Day on the first Monday of September; Veteran’s Day on Nov. 11; Thanksgiving on the fourth Thursday and the fourth Friday of November; and Christmas Day on Dec. 25.

Regular employees also receive three “floating holidays” each year to use for holidays not included on the list of legal holidays, Gorsuch told councilmembers.

“The intent is to make (Juneteenth) a citywide holiday,” Gorsuch said.

Juneteenth, which marks the day federal troops arrived in Galveston, Texas, in 1865, giving word of the Emancipation Proclamation President Abraham Lincoln had signed nearly two years prior, freeing enslaved people, became a federal holiday in 2021.

After hearing Gorsuch’s description of the ordinance that would make Juneteenth an official city holiday, Councilwoman Leslie Lewallen she had noticed a federally recognized holiday missing from the list.

“I was going through the ordinance and it appears every federal holiday is listed except Columbus Day or Indigenous Persons Day,” Lewallen said. “Was this an oversight? Purposeful?”

“The direction we were given was just to (add) Juneteenth as a holiday,” Gorsuch said. “We do not observe Columbus Day.”

“Since it is a federal holiday, I would be inclined to keep that holiday for city employees,” Lewallen said. “We don’t have to call it Columbus Day or Indigenous Peoples Day, maybe a ‘heritage day’ … for people to celebrate their own heritage.”

Columbus Day, which commemorates the anniversary of Christopher Columbus’ arrival in the Americas on Oct. 12, 1492, is still considered a federal holiday, but is not celebrated in at least 12 states, including Washington. Some states and cities have replaced Columbus Day with Indigenous Peoples’ Day, to recognize the devastating impact of Columbus’ arrival on Native American tribes who had lived in the region known as North America for thousands of years before European arrived.

City Councilman Tim Hein said he supported Lewallan’s comments regarding the possibility of celebrating a “heritage day” on the Columbus Day/Indigenous Peoples’ Day.

“I believe it’s important to be consistent with federal holidays and recognize the diversity that is America,” Hein said. “(Lewallen) has a very good idea. At a minimum, we could have a recognition of that holiday, but perhaps not an additional (legal holiday), so that it is a recognized holiday.”

Gorsuch said she would bring a revised draft resolution back to the council this month showing Juneteenth as a legal, paid holiday for city employees.

To learn more about Juneteenth and Indigenous Peoples’ Day, visit: