Since former Lincoln City Mayor Dick Anderson’s decision to resign on Dec. 14, the city council has been stewing on how to fill the vacant position. On Monday night the decision was made.
The Lincoln City city council has two options to fill the mayor position: by appointment or through a special election. After the oath of office ceremony that swore in councilors Diana Hinton, Riley Hoagland, Judy Casper and Anne Marie Skinner, the new six member council made their first official decision as a council.
Councilor Hinton opened up the discussion straight away by expressing her support for an appointment.
“After reviewing our charter and listening to council members and consulting the League of Oregon Cities attorney on a couple of occasions about all of this, and just doing some hard thinking about it, I’m ready to move to appoint Susan Wahlke to the mayor position,” Hinton said. “I have a lot of reasons why.”
During the 2018 election for Lincoln City mayor, Wahlke lost to Dick Anderson by a mere 16 votes. With an extensive list of qualifications and the fact that she was runner up for the mayor position two years ago, Hinton made the motion to appoint Wahlke to the interim mayor position. Casper made a second to that motion.
Councilor Mitch Parsons pumped the brakes on the motion during the council discussions that followed.
“I think we’re getting ahead of ourselves,” Parsons said. “I thought we were deciding whether to hold an election or decide whether we were going to pick somebody. Now we’re in a situation where we’ve decided who we’re going to pick.”
Hinton then explained her motion by citing the previous election for mayor two years ago and saying that she thoroughly evaluated all of Wahlke’s qualifications, which included serving on city council, as council president and serving on several community and city boards and committees. Hinton said it would be hard to find someone who would have better qualifications for mayor.
“We’ve already gone through the election process, people did speak at that time and votes were cast and counted,” Hinton said. “Susan Wahlke was within 16 votes of Dick. That’s a pretty good showing of how the people of Lincoln City feel about her as being mayor.”
Councilor Rick Mark agreed that Wahlke would be an excellent candidate for the position, but in light of recent events, he felt now would be the time for a special election.
“We just witnessed the horror last week of lawless mobs of people who were fighting democracy, opposed to democracy at the state capitol and the U.S. capitol,” Mark said. “I’d like to send a message to the Lincoln City residents that we are very much supporters of letting the people have a voice and the democratic process.”
The newest councilor, Skinner, echoed councilor Mark’s statements in that Wahlke would be a great fit for the position, but also said she would be in favor of an election.
“Given what I have heard from constituents in Ward II, and also along with what councilor Mark said in light of the events that have transpired in the last week, I think it behooves us more than ever to be as democratic as possible and that is a special election,” Skinner said.
With no further comments made, the council voted down the motion to appoint Wahlke as mayor with a 4-2 vote, (Hinton and Casper voting in favor).
Parsons then made a motion to hold a special election in May 2021. It received a second from Hoagland and after no further discussion, the motion passed unanimously.
Immediately following the decision, the council reserved time for public comments. Among citizens on hand to speak was Wahlke, who had to adjust her written comments as she expected to speak before council made their final decision.
Wahlke reminded council they would be electing a council president during the meeting and wanted them to take the decision seriously as the council president will fill the role of mayor until one is elected in May. Later in the meeting, the council voted unanimously to keep Casper as council president.
Wahlke also made note of saying that an appointment was made in 2015 for a vacated council position, which happened to be Dick Anderson. The term was about 3 1/2 years, and this mayor position is roughly 18 months. However, she expressed her interest in running for mayor again.
“As Diana said, I ran against Dick and lost by 16 votes, and I’m ready to run again,” Wahlke said. “I have my (campaign) signs and I’m ready to file as soon as I can.”