Creswell mayor Richard Zettervall resigned on Sept. 30 after explosive talks around equity forced him from office.
CRESWELL — Creswell mayor Richard Zettervall resigned effective immediately on Wednesday, Sept. 30, citing negativity and backlash from the community over the equity resolution conversations. His term was to expire at the end of this year, and he announced in a Chronicle guest editorial that he would not be seeking reelection.
“I now feel unable to represent the city council and the Creswell citizens due to all the negativity that the equity and inclusion conversation has created in Creswell,” Zettervall said in his resignation email to city staff.
Creswell City Council first began discussing social justice in July. At that meeting, he said “this (discussion on social justice) is only going to be the beginning. This will be an ongoing public topic until we decide what direction we want to go. I don’t know if we could have a policy adopted by the end of the year, but I would like to.”
That week, Zettervall also announced he would not run for mayor in the fall, but was nonetheless full of optimism, writing that while he would not seek re-election, “several people have already stepped up to carry on with the great work of city council … Thank you very much Creswell, you truly are ‘The Friendly City!’”
Sixty days later, after several meetings regarding equity and inclusion in the city, Zettervall’s tone changed.
“I am very sad that the equity and inclusion topic has turned out to be so controversial. It should not be partisan or controversial in any way and should be something that every citizen of our country should aspire to every day,” he wrote.
Council met in August and introduced a resolution that would reassert Creswell as an inclusive city that denounces racism, and proposed forming an equity committee. The reaction from the community shocked Zettervall and most council members.
In September, the council nixed the conversation on equity as a result of the negative reaction to the proposals.
Council met again on Monday and discussed the possibility of removing the discussion on equity from the table, but could not reach a consensus and ultimately the subject was killed. Because of state law and council procedures, it now cannot discuss equity, even in the broadest of terms.
City Manager Michelle Amberg thanked Zettervall for his leadership and commitment to equality.
“I understand that your resignation was not taken lightly, and that it is a reflection of your personal integrity and strength,” she said in a reply to Zettervall. “Your commitment to the equal treatment of all people has been visible in your character and achievements in Creswell. I know that you will continue this important work even if it is not in an elected position.”
Zettervall served as a city councilor from 2016 and served as council president under mayor Dave Stram in 2019 before being elected mayor. Zettervall also serves on the board of the Lane Council of Governments (LCOG) as a general board member.
Councilor Kevin Prociw and council president Amy Knudsen are vying for the seat in November.
The council may desire to keep the mayor position vacant through the remainder of the year with the council president Knudsen performing the duties of mayor, or they can decide to fill it, Amberg said.
“I do not know where Creswell’s council stands on filling the vacancy,” Amberg said.
The next steps will be discussed at the Oct. 12 city council meeting.
Creswell and Springfield now have vacancies in its mayoral roles. The Springfield city council on Monday confirmed it would name an interim mayor from among the city councilors.